No. 10 Penn State beat No. 17 Iowa on Saturday in a very on-brand low scoring Big Ten game but the biggest drama at Kinnick Stadium this weekend might have occurred pre-game.
Nittany Lions players, in response to a fan’s racist letter that was sent to safety Jonathan Sutherland last week, warmed up in t-shirts that read “Chains, Tattoos, Dreads, & WE ARE.” While the idea was designed to be a show of support, school officials made sure they didn’t wind up wearing the shirts all that long and confiscated them a few minutes into warmups.
While some may have thought that the school was trying to ward off any further controversy in the matter, it seems there was a more practical issue at hand: NCAA compliance. According to the Centre Daily Times, a local State College bar was behind printing the shirts and put their logo on them. While the players organized the entire thing by themselves according to PSU officials, the commercial connection was flagged out of an abundance of caution over the eligibility of those who wore them.
“While we are supportive of our students expressing themselves in a thoughtful manner, they are expected to wear team-issued apparel on game day. We asked our students to remove the shirts out of an abundance of caution for NCAA compliance,” the school said in a statement released to the paper.
While head coach James Franklin didn’t appear to directly address the shirts post-game, he did offer an impressive diatribe in support of his players and against the issues mentioned in the racist letter earlier in the week.
“The football that I know and love brings people together and embraces differences. Black, white, brown, Catholic, Jewish or Muslim. Rich or poor. Rural or urban. Republican or Democrat. Long hair, short hair, no hair,” Franklin said. “They’re all in that locker room together. Teams all over this country are the purest form of humanity that we have. We don’t judge, we embrace differences.”
The issue (with, it should be said, an extremely minuscule minority of the Penn State fan base) is unlikely to die down during the coming week with plenty of attention on the university and the football program, including ESPN’s College GameDay coming to town and a host of national media descending upon State College for the team’s huge Big Ten matchup against Michigan on Saturday.