The letter, which implored Sutherland and others to cut off their dreadlocks because they "look disgusting and are certainly not attractive," was shared by Sutherland's teammates, including linebacker Antonio Shelton.
Franklin stressed that Penn State's values exemplify the inclusive nature of football, and he was also full of praise for Sutherland.
"Jonathan Sutherland is one of the most respected players in our program. He's the ultimate example of what our program is all about," Franklin said. "He's a captain, he's a dean's list honor student, he's confident, he's articulate, he's intelligent, he's thoughtful, he's caring, and he's committed. He's got two of the most supportive parents, and I would be so blessed if my daughters would marry someone with his character and integrity one day."
The letter in question, sent by Johnstown, Pennsylvania, resident Dave Petersen, criticized Sutherland's demeanor and appearance, among other contentious observations.
"You will certainly be playing 'on Sunday' in the future but we have stopped watching the NFL due to the disgusting tattoos, awful hair, and immature antics in the end zone," the letter reads. Petersen has since said the letter wasn't intended to be racially insensitive.
Sutherland shared a statement, explaining he forgives Petersen for his "degrading opinions."
"In the year 2019, people of different cultures, religions, and ethnicities are still being discriminated against and it needs to stop," wrote Sutherland. "Don't be scared to be different!"
The school has also condemned the letter's "message of intolerance."