Penn State football players to don patches for social justice on their uniforms for opener

The (Wilkes-Barre) Times-Tribune
Penn State will wear the social-justice patch, pictured above, on their football uniforms for Saturday's opener at Indiana.

In the fight for social justice this year, Penn State players have taken a prominent role in the community.

They'll continue to do so once they return to the field Saturday.

The athletic department announced Tuesday the start of a campaign to build a culture of "respect, appreciation and empathy for all differences." Called Penn State United, the initiative will be evident during the No. 8 Nittany Lions' season opener at Indiana on Saturday, when players will wear a uniform patch, helmet stickers and warmup shirts featuring a its social justice logo.

In a statement, the athletic department said Penn State United's goal is to build understanding, that Penn State and Pennsylvania are "rooted in diversity, shared experience and hope," and that the football program believes it can help society by "publicly and peacefully" pursuing not just tolerating differences, but recognizing how they can enrich citizens.

"We've had a lot of discussions that I think were very, very important," Penn State coach James Franklin said during his weekly press conference Tuesday. "Obviously our players have been watching other teams, other leagues, other conferences as well as professional basketball. We felt that we wanted to do something that showed our unity. That's the important thing for us."

In July, the NCAA announced plans to allow players to wear patches in support of social justice causes. But, Franklin conceded that nobody within the program wanted to do something so divisive that it would cloud the message of unity.

"So, we've taken an approach," he said. "It's about bringing everybody together, bringing everybody together at Penn State, bringing everybody together in Centre County, bringing everybody together in the state of Pennsylvania. Hopefully being a leader in our country on this topic."

Rising star: Penn State coaches don't recommend one-handed catches unless they're absolutely the only option. Franklin stresses this, so he can emphasize something else: True freshman receiver Parker Washington has made so many one-handed catches during preseason practices, it's barely even impressive when he does it anymore.

That's part of the reason Washington, a 5-foot-10, 205-pound former first-team all-state performer as a high school standout in Texas, was listed atop the depth chart at one of the three wide receiver positions on the Nittany Lions' initial 2020 depth chart released Tuesday.

Washington securing a starting spot over preseason favorites Daniel George and TJ Jones and more highly rated true freshman KeAndre Lambert-Smith came as much because of a mature, steady approach as it did those impressive catches, Franklin said.

"He's a very mature young man. He's a very smart young man. The offense kind of makes sense to him, and he can kind of connect dots with some things," Franklin said. "I think the quarterbacks trust him, that he knows his assignments and he's going to be where he's supposed to be."

Relaxing redshirts: One of the traditions of Franklin's first in-season press conference is a discussion of true freshmen who will certainly redshirt and ones who are primed to see game action.

That wasn't necessary this year. The NCAA has granted a full year of eligibility to any athletes competing this fall, and the fact that youngsters can appear in every game without losing a season of eligibility will indeed affect how Franklin and his staff go about constructing game plans as the season progresses.

"There really is no redshirting this year, because this year doesn't count," Franklin said. "So literally, if you need to play a guy, you play a guy, whether that's one rep or whether that's one game or whatever it may be. It has just allowed us to open our roster up, and that may be a luxury some weeks, and it may be a necessity other weeks based on how we continue to handle this COVID challenge."

So far, it has been handled well, he said. As of Tuesday afternoon, Penn State will have every player available to take on the Hoosiers on

New recruit: North Allegheny senior Khalil Dinkins, one of western Pennsylvania's top football recruits, committed Wednesday to Penn State.

Dinkins announced his decision on Twitter.

The 6-foot-4, 220-pound wide receiver and linebacker had nearly 20 Division I Football Bowl Subdivision offers including Pitt and Western Virginia. Michigan, Virginia Tech and Kentucky were among his other options.

Dinkins has five touchdowns in five games this season. He leads North Allegheny (5-0) with 16 receptions for 234 yards. The Tigers are the top-ranked team in WPIAL Class 6A.

His father Darnell is a Schenley graduate who played football at Pitt and in the NFL.