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KSU wrestler suspended indefinitely after tweeting anti-gay slurs

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Posted: Monday, February 10, 2014 6:25 pm

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.

TV2 Video by Tyler Carey.

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 mmann14@kent.edu.

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10 comments:

  • Sportsgirlnj16 posted at 3:33 am on Mon, Oct 13, 2014.

    Sportsgirlnj16 Posts: 1

    So let me get this straight...you suspend a Current wrestler for a tweet regarding a Gay slur!! But thought it was ok to go ahead with a scholarship for a Steubenville Ohio high school wrestler after the UGLY Rape case scandal!!

     
  • John Levine posted at 4:33 am on Fri, Feb 14, 2014.

    John Levine Posts: 5

    Forgot to ask in re my immediate below post 1) you have to scroll down past my first one below it to my second post immediately following the post of 'Shelley B' 2) could someone with knowledge of IT kentwired.com uses for it's discussion boards follow on this thread with the answer: exactly what/who's auto-filtering IT is employed? Thanx much!

     
  • John Levine posted at 4:18 am on Fri, Feb 14, 2014.

    John Levine Posts: 5

    Boy, forget about bigoted wrestlers, how about just the institution's related parts themselves! Too funny! When I just a second ago tried to post my below comment (scroll down) where you see blanks indicated in the body of the text? In my original post, where you see those two blank spaces?

    I tried to type a certain three letter word beginning with the letter 'g' and ending with the letter 'y'. The auto-filters for kentwired.com would not let me post. Instead what popped up on the screen was the advisory;

    ''Your comment cannot be accepted due to presence of profanity. Please remove any objectionable content from your comment and try again.'

    So, I did, and bingo! The auto-filtering then let me post....what you can see.....
    after I deleted that three letter word (sometimes taken to mean 'happy').

    We've now answered the question, how does such a bigoted, homophobic, hate-filled student culture openly exist in such high profile parts of Kent State.

     
  • John Levine posted at 3:55 am on Fri, Feb 14, 2014.

    John Levine Posts: 5

    Good post. And, 2 questions for kentwired,com's editors in re your coverage of this story: 1 ) what standards must a newspaper meet to be a '____' newspaper? 2) What standards must a newspaper meet so as to not be considered a '____' newspaper? Fascinating issue you've opened up here..

     
  • John Levine posted at 3:39 am on Fri, Feb 14, 2014.

    John Levine Posts: 5

    Much thanks for this 'works for' post of which a screen shot was forwarded. The majority of NCAA D1 administrations are pushing back against the position that members of its varsity teams are 'employees' claiming they are not in any way. Members of Northwestern's mens varsity football team are have declared that they are in fact, and do wish to get paid for their time. Nice to hear of support from like minds around other college towns. This struggle for fairness will be won. It's time has come.

     
  • Here_in_Kent posted at 5:19 pm on Wed, Feb 12, 2014.

    Here_in_Kent Posts: 1

    Most employers/scholarship granting institutions have clauses and stipulations relating to employee conduct and statements to the press. Wheeler works for Kent State--not the other the other way around. The first amendment does not protect one's right to wrestle. Incidentally, it's interesting to note that despite his involvement in the Steubenville case, Charlie Keenan is still a member of KSU's wrestling team.

     
  • bonny111 posted at 7:19 pm on Tue, Feb 11, 2014.

    bonny111 Posts: 1

    just close your mouth already you blind imbecile. north america today isn't one secular god fearing nation despite your hopes and prayers, we have this thing called tolerance (probably not in your redneck state) and responsibility. This not so bright young man chose to belittle and insult a large group of people in a public forum in a tasteless manner. he should keep his hate in his tiny little brain or go to a kkk meeting or something, not embarrass his university and family by being so slow. I think he is lashing out after all the homophobic insults he has likely received for being a wrestler. No go watch some Sarah Palin TLC shows and be quiet

     
  • Brad Gregg posted at 3:08 pm on Tue, Feb 11, 2014.

    Brad Gregg Posts: 2

    The thing that you have to remember is that he is representing Kent State, and has signed a contract saying that he is. Also, there are plenty of other ways to show disapproval without using words that are highly insulting to the LGBT community.

    What this was is hate speech. If he would've simply said "I don't agree with LGBT people", he would not be facing nearly as many problems.

     
  • Freedom Of Speech posted at 2:06 pm on Tue, Feb 11, 2014.

    Freedom Of Speech Posts: 1

    I am very unhappy with Kent State for suspending Sam Wheeler. I personally do not know Mr. Wheeler. He is entitled to his opinion. Why is it okay for someone to come out and say they are proud of a sinful lifestyle . Mr. Wheeler is simply speaking his opinion that he does not approve of that. Mr. Wheeler is being discriminated against by Kent State. Kent State must remove the suspension they gave Mr. Wheeler. He voiced his opinion on his personal accounts. If someone chooses to be different. Good for them if it works. But don't punish someone for speaking their mind. It is unconstitutional.

     
  • ShelleyB posted at 8:42 am on Tue, Feb 11, 2014.

    ShelleyB Posts: 1

    Strong start on this story, but the ending detail about Wheeler's sporting prowess are completely unnecessary for the topic. That Wheeler has been "crucial" to the success of the wrestling team, or that his suspension now causes a "predicament" for their upcoming match is not the issue here, and I find it offensive that these details were included with the story because they detract from the larger issue here - that a KSU athlete (sponsored by his peers through athletic scholarship) used openly discriminatory language in a public forum, against the university's policy of inclusion and acceptance of diversity.

    I'm glad the university held Wheeler responsible for his discriminatory social media comments, however, is this level of accountability universally applied? What of the social media presences of other athletes at the university (or is Wheeler just the one they caught)?

     
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