Boris Tsang / Sun Photography Editor

The running back from Morristown, New Jersey, was removed from the Cornell football team after the video surfaced.

June 23, 2020

Incoming Cornell Freshman Uses Racial Slur in Video, Loses Spot on Football Team

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Editor’s note: This article includes a video with anti-Black and racist language.

An incoming freshman and Cornell football recruit who was caught on video using a racial slur will no longer be a part of the team, a source close to the program confirmed.

Nate Panza ’24, a running back from Morristown, New Jersey, said the N-word in a Snapchat video recorded around 1 a.m. Sunday morning.

In the video — filmed by Panza’s high school classmate and incoming University of Richmond student Adam Giaquinto — a third person smokes a cigarette, while Panza is heard off-screen using the racial slur.

The camera then pans to Panza, who says, “Oh wait, you can’t put that one up. You can’t post that. Adam, you can’t post that.”

“Please save it, though,” Panza continues, about the documentation of his friend’s first cigarette.

Giaquinto then says the N-word himself, while also invoking the name of George Floyd, who was killed by police on May 25.

“Now that’s fucked up,” Panza says in response to Giaquinto’s Floyd reference. “Okay, you can’t say that.”

Starting Sunday morning, word of the video spread on social media, and Panza deleted his Instagram and Twitter accounts. Transcripts and the video itself were shared by various accounts, including one run by Cornell students called @blackatcornell. The account received the video from Trey McNair, a high school student from the Morristown area who sent it for a friend who was scared to share the information after seeing the video.

New student organization Cornell Students for Black Lives also responded to the video, sharing information and encouraging students to email Cornell administration on their social media platforms about Panza’s acceptance.

After a source confirmed to them that Panza had been removed from the football team, they updated their posts, writing, “Keep those emails going!”

“A video was taken of me using a word that is offensive and hurtful,” Panza wrote in a statement to The Sun on Monday night. “The word has a long history of cruelty for the black community and is simply wrong. I am heartbroken I have hurt people; those I know and those I do not. I take full responsibility for my actions.”

“I do not believe that my language that night aligns with who I have tried to be as a person, the values I live by or the manner in which I have conducted myself as an athlete,” he continued. “My immediate reaction to the video was to reach out to my entire high school community to offer my sincerest apologies.”

Panza and Giaquinto’s high school alma mater, Morristown-Beard School, released a statement Sunday evening, calling the video “offensive and hurtful.”

“Our School’s policies do not tolerate racism or discrimination of any kind,” the statement read. “This unfortunate incident is a reminder of the work that still needs to be done by us as a school and as a nation.”

The video and responses came during a moment when the complex pain of enduring racism in the U.S. is at the forefront of national consciousness during weeks of countrywide protests.

At Cornell, the debate about what speech should be considered acceptable also came to a head after Prof. David Collum ’77, chemistry, tweeted in support of police officers that pushed and severely injured an elderly man. Collum since stepped down as director of undergraduate studies for the department, but maintains his post as a professor.

Students at Cornell have mobilized to call out what they say are years of injustice and racism at Cornell, launching a massive fundraiser, petition and educational social media campaign.

“I plan to better educate myself on the issues of racism and injustice in America, as I want to be part of the solution and not the problem,” Panza wrote. “The label ‘racist’ is not something I can live with and I will work to prove that every day for the rest of my life. It is my humble hope that I will come out of this incident as a better ally, better friend and better person.”

Panza announced his commitment to Cornell football by signing a national letter of intent on Feb. 5. In his senior year at Morristown-Beard, he rushed for over 1,200 yards and scored 17 touchdowns while earning All-Morris County honors as a running back.

“One word does not define me as a man or human being,” Panza continued, “and I can only hope that the Cornell Community will allow me the opportunity to make the appropriate amends and give me that second chance.”

The University of Richmond also tweeted a response Monday morning, saying that it was investigating the matter, after another account tagged them in the video. The university then revoked Giaquinto’s admission, they tweeted Wednesday morning.

“Admission to the University of Richmond is offered with the condition that students wishing to join our community maintain the academic and social/behavioral standards on which admission is based — standards expected of all members of the community. Violation of those standards has resulted in a review and reconsideration of the admission decision,” the announcement read.

Giaquinto declined to comment to The Sun.

Cornell has yet to release an official statement, and Panza’s admission to the Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management remains intact as of Monday evening.

Cornell maintains an admissions revocation policy that states it “reserves the right to revoke an offer of admission under certain circumstances, and at any time.”

“[E]ach offer of admission is contingent on the admitted applicant satisfactorily … continuing to uphold high standards of character in activities outside the classroom,” the policy reads.

In addition to academic performance and graduation, the policy maintains that the University can revoke admission if it “learns that an admitted applicant has engaged in behavior prior to attendance that indicates a significant lack of judgement, integrity, or moral character.”

Similar language was used in a case a year prior, when Ivy colleague Harvard University faced social media pushback after an incoming student used racial slurs and other offensive language.

In June 2019, Harvard ultimately revoked admission from Kyle Kashuv, one of the survivors of the 2018 murders at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

After two-year-old screenshots of him repeatedly using the N-word surfaced, Kashuv confirmed in a series of tweets that Harvard had rescinded his acceptance. He also apologized for “making idiotic comments, using callous and inflammatory language in an effort to be as extreme and shocking as possible.”

William Fitzsimmons, Harvard’s dean of admissions and financial aid, cited “maturity and moral character” from Harvard’s conditions for admission in his email to Kashuv, he tweeted. Still, the decision sparked criticism and calls for forgiveness from people who saw the decision as unfair and politically motivated.

Update, June 24, 11:01 p.m.: This story has been updated to include the University of Richmond’s announcement.

Johnathan Stimpson ’21 contributed reporting.