KENT, Ohio (WKBN) — There’s a debate brewing on Kent State University’s campus.
Students have differing opinions about whether sophomore wrestler Sam Wheeler should have been suspended from his team because of a Tweet. That tweet used a gay slur talking about University of Missouri football player Michael Sam, who came out over the weekend.
The tweet said: “I can’t even watch Sports Center today cause all they are talking about is Marcus Smart or that (slur) from Mizzou.”
Later, Wheeler sent another Tweet that said: “O geez I got all these (slur) boys mad at me now.”
“I don’t think he should have been suspended for it or anything,” said Juliana Jeffery.
“You don’t want to make your team look bad, so it’s probably best that that happened,” said Alex Compean, who plays on the university’s hockey team.
Compean said student athletes have a different standard when it comes to their actions.
“You represent the team you play for, so when you say stuff like that it reflects the thoughts of the whole team rather than just the individual,” he said.
Kent State University Athletic Director Joel Nielsen released this statement Tuesday:
“We are aware of the insensitive tweets by one of our student athletes. 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. This is an educational opportunity for all of our student-athletes.”
KSU head wrestling coach Jim Andrassy released a statement of his own.
“As an alum of Kent State University and as Sam’s head coach, I was surprised and offended by what I read on Twitter. I have spoken to Sam personally, and while he is remorseful, he will be suspended indefinitely while we determine the best course of action moving forward,” Andrassy’s statement said.
But Jeffery said Wheeler should be protected by the First Amendment.
“I think it was wrong what he did. But obviously with freedom of speech, he should have gotten to say whatever he wanted,” Jeffery said.
Even experts on the law have some differing views on this case. Attorney and Professor Emeritus Tim Smith said student athletes contract away their free speech rights when they sign on with the university, so those rights were not violated.
“He still has the right of free speech. But he doesn’t have the right to be on the wrestling team. That’s a privilege afforded by the wrestling team. And the university can withdraw it if it finds that his speech violates his agreement,” Smith said.
But another attorney and professor disagreed.
“Historically courts have said government agencies, including a public university, cannot condition the receipt of benefits on an agreement to waive fundamental Constitutional rights,” said Mark Goodman.
Goodman said the Supreme Court has said there’s nowhere that free speech is more important than on a college campus.
That leaves many on campus wondering what’s next for Sam Wheeler.