Lehigh University junior wide receiver Ryan Spadola has been reprimanded and suspended by the NCAA for making an “inappropriate and repugnant racial reference” on Twitter.
As a result, Spadola, a record-breaking All-American receiver, will have to sit out Saturday’s national Division I football quarterfinal game against North Dakota State University in Fargo.
The suspension was issued Thursday by the Division I Football Championship Committee, according to a National Collegiate Athletic Association news release.
Spadola reportedly made the offensive tweet about Towson University, Lehigh’s playoff opponent last week, in the days leading up to that game – a 40-38 Mountain Hawks victory.
As he had been all season, Spadola was stellar in the Lehigh win, making 13 catches for 152 yards and a touchdown. During the season, he set a Lehigh record for receptions with 96 and a school and Patriot League record for receiving yards with 1,614, while catching 11 touchdowns, according to The Morning Call.
On Wednesday, Spadola was named an All-American by the American Football Coaches Association.
Spadola reportedly was not the original author of the racially insensitive tweet. It was sent to him by a high school teammate and Spadola “re-tweeted” the comment.
“When he reused the words, he made them his,” said Lehigh coach Andy Coen, in a statement he issued on the incident earlier in the week. He called the tweet “unacceptable.”
Spadola has been contrite. The NCAA noted in its news release that he issued a public apology on Twitter.
On Thursday, he also made the following statement, as reported in The Express-Times:
"To my competitors, teammates and to everyone else who has seen the tweet I forwarded and was offended by my action, I humbly apologize and ask for your forgiveness of my unwise behavior.
At the time I received and forwarded the tweet, I didn't stop to think about how this could be offensive. In hindsight, I recognize that it was clearly inappropriate. I would never do anything to intentionally harm or berate others regardless of ethnicity. Everyone who knows me knows that to be true."
Lehigh has plans to have Spadola participate in and lead discussions on racially insensitive remarks in the campus community, according to the NCAA.
“The football committee was very disappointed with the unsportsmanlike action taken by the student-athlete,” said Jim O’Day, chair of the Division I Football Championship Committee and director of athletics at the University of Montana.
“This was a very unfortunate incident, but racially insensitive characterizations are unacceptable and will not be tolerated. The offensive language of this nature by Mr. Spadola, whether intentional or not, was unsportsmanlike and discredited the championship overall."