Kent State redshirt sophomore wrestler Sam Wheeler has been suspended indefinitely Monday after he tweeted anti-gay remarks regarding Michael Sam, a former Missouri football player and potential NFL draftee, who recently came out as gay.
“On behalf of Kent State University, we consider these comments to be ignorant and not indicative of the beliefs held by our university community as a whole,” said Director of Athletics Joel Nielsen in a statement released by the university. “This is an educational opportunity for all of our student-athletes.”
The tweet referring to Sam was the first of a number of tweets that utilized anti-gay language. Wheeler was engaged by other Twitter users who took offense to his initial comment, which Wheeler then responded to with additional slurs.
Wheeler’s Twitter account has since been deleted. The Daily Kent Stater obtained screen shots of the tweets from Stephen Rutgers, marketing director for the Washington Blade, a Washington D.C-based gay newspaper. Rutgers also sent the screen shots to the Athletic Department and to wrestling head coach Jim Andrassy.
The tweets were first reported by OutrageDC, a gay nightlife and entertainment blog affiliated with the Washington Blade. According to OutrageDC’s post, one of the targets of Wheeler’s tweeting was contacted by a “KSU alumni” who gives “considerably to [Kent State].” The alumni is quoted as having said that he contacted Nielsen directly.
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Assistant Director of Athletic Communications for Wrestling Aaron Chimenti said Coach Andrassy “quickly addressed it with Sam,” but Chimenti was unavailable for further comment.
“As an alum of Kent State University and Sam’s head coach, I was surprised and offended by what I read on Twitter,” Coach Andrassy said in a statement. “I have spoken to Sam directly, and while he is remorseful, he will be suspended indefinitely while we determine the best course of action moving forward.”
Andrassy and Wheeler were also unavailable for further comment.
Michael Sam, the subject of Wheeler’s initial tweet, was an All-American defensive end at Missouri and is projected to be a fourth-round pick by ESPN’s draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. If drafted or signed, Sam will be the first active openly gay NFL player in history.
The university’s swift response has been met with praise by members of Kent’s LGBTQ community. Brandon Stephens, president of PRIDE! Kent said he thought the administration is handling the situation well.
“I think that the university’s response, especially coming so quickly, has been accurate,” Stephens said. “The suspension was warranted, and I would applaud the university for taking that stance.”
Wheeler has been crucial to the Kent State wrestling team over the past two seasons. Wheeler landed in sixth place in last season’s Mid-American Conference Wrestling Tournament and finished the season with a 25-14 win-loss total.
Wheeler has had an outstanding season for the Flashes to this point, boasting a 26-5 record on the season. He currently holds the No. 13 rank on Intermat.com for his weight class and at times has been as high as eighth in the same standings.
The suspension leaves the wrestling team with a predicament for Wheeler’s 184-pound weight class, with the two other wrestlers in the class being freshman. That being said, the Flashes will take part in the National Wrestling Coaches Association Duals this weekend featuring 13 other teams. Of those 13 opponents, seven of them are in Intermat.com’s top-25 team rankings.
Contact Michael Mann at firstname.lastname@example.org.