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University of Colorado Football Player Suspended After Racist E-mail

University of Colorado Football Player Suspended After Racist E-mail

A University of Colorado football player has been suspended and his girlfriend, a member of the university’s cross-country team, has quit the program after being accused of sending a racist e-mail to a Hispanic cross-country runner, the school announced.

The e-mail included a reference to dragging the man behind a car, recalling an incident in 1998 in Jasper, Texas, when a Black man was dragged to his death. The two athletes were cited for harassment and ethnic intimidation.

A news release from athletic department director Mike Bohn announcing the suspension made no mention of the e-mail.

It said Clint O’Neal, a 6-foot-6, 305-pound senior who starts at offensive tackle for the Buffaloes, was suspended for violation of team and athletic department rules. The length of the suspension is unclear, however, because the college football season is already over.

According to Bohn, Jackie Zeigle, a junior from South Jordan, Utah, had told the university she was quitting the cross country and track programs for personal reasons.

Bohn said privacy rules prevented the disclosure of any other information in the case other than to say the decision on O’Neal was made after several meetings over several days.

A police report says O’Neal and Zeigle, who are both White, sent the typo-filled message to Greg Castro. It called Castro a “river rat,” a “border hopper” and a “bean eating piece of (expletive).” The message, which suggested O’Neal would drag Castro behind his car, was sent from O’Neal’s e-mail account on an Internet portal for college students that requires a university e-mail address.

Police say O’Neal told them he was upset after his team lost the Big 12 Championship game 70-3 to the University of Texas. He told Zeigle to use his account and write the message. Zeigle told police she was retaliating against her teammate because he is obsessed with her and harasses her.

According to police, Castro felt threatened by the message and slept at a friend’s house the night he received the e-mail. He told the Daily Camera, the daily newspaper in Boulder, Colo., that he doesn’t harass Zeigle.

The suspension announcement came three days after head football coach Gary Barnett accepted a $3 million contract buyout from the university. The football program has weathered intense criticism multiple times during his tenure. And Barnett himself was widely criticized for disparaging comments he made about the team’s lone female player after she filed rape charges against one of her teammates. The program has also been marred by the disclosure of a secret slush fund and a sordid recruiting scandal in which sex was allegedly used to entice athletes to come to the school.

There have also been several racially tinged incidents in Boulder over the past year. A Black student government leader received an e-mail in November that threatened her life, prompting a campus police investigation and student rallies (see Diverse, Dec. 15, 2005). In February, those attending the Big 12 Conference on Black Student Affairs reported racist remarks, staring and poor service at an area restaurant. And in June a mixed-race student suffered a broken jaw in an assault near campus.

— Associated Press

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