The case of Laremy Tunsil is another example of the perils of social media.
The University of Mississippi offensive tackle — an early favorite as the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft — slipped all the way down to No. 13 after a video emerged of him smoking marijuana through a gas mask.
The clip was posted on Tunsil’s own Twitter account, which he closed shortly afterward. But by then, the video had already gone viral. Tunsil says his account was hacked.
“Man, it was a mistake. It happened years ago,” Tunsil told Deion Sanders on the NFL Network, shortly after he was chosen by the Miami Dolphins. “Someone had my Twitter account and that’s how it got on there.”
To make matters worse, Tunsil’s Instagram account was also apparently hacked, this time after the draft, when a screen shot was posted of an alleged exchange between the player and a member of the University of Mississippi athletics department regarding payment of his mother’s $305 utility bill.
“I thought we all agreed on an amt — that number keeps changing,” wrote the administrator. “Someone needs to explain the cost — I have no way of handling surprise amounts.”
After the draft, Tunsil told reporters he found out about the Instagram post just five minutes earlier during a television interview. He acknowledged that he had been paid while playing at the university commonly known as Ole Miss — a major NCAA violation.
“I made a mistake. That happened,” he said.
When asked whether he was paid by any coaches, Tunsil said, “I’d have to say, yeah.”
The NCAA has not responded to CNN’s request for comment.
The University of Mississippi released a statement saying it is aware of the reports.
“Like we do whenever an allegation is brought to our attention or a potential violation is self-discovered, we will aggressively investigate and fully cooperate with the NCAA and the SEC,” the statement said.
The university did not address the identity of the person Tunsil was interacting with on the Instagram post.
The comments will likely provoke another NCAA investigation into Ole Miss athletics and the program may face harsh penalties.
Tunsil is no stranger to controversy, having been suspended in 2015 for seven games in his third and most recent season at Ole Miss, after an NCAA investigation found he received improper benefits — including three different loaner vehicles, a four-month, interest-free loan of $3,000 to make a down payment on a car, and a free airplane ticket purchased by the friend of a teammate.
After he was suspended, Tunsil apologized and called the situation a “learning experience.”
“I take full responsibility for the mistakes I made and want to thank everyone for their continued support,” he said in a written statement. I want to apologize to my teammates, coaches and the entire Ole Miss family for how my choices affected our program.”
After many seasons lavishing in the cellar of the hyper-competitive SEC Conference, Ole Miss enjoyed a resurgence last season, ranking as high as No. 3 in the AP poll and being featured on a Sports Illustrated cover story after beating Alabama.
Listed at 6-foot-5 inches and 310 pounds, Tunsil plays the critical left tackle position, which typically protects a quarterback’s blind side. ESPN’s pre-draft analysis projected he would be the third pick in the draft.
The downward shift of 10 spots has likely cost the player millions in potential salary, as NFL rookies are paid on a loose sliding scale according to their selection in the draft. Each first-round pick in 2015 committed to four-year deals with signing bonuses. The difference in pay between the No. 3 pick and No. 13 pick was $12.11 million in salary and another $8.75 million in signing bonus, according to an NFL chart showing salary and bonus amounts for players chosen in the 2015 draft.
Dolphins general manager Chris Grier said he was very comfortable taking Tunsil with the team’s first round pick and was surprised they even had a shot, given their middle-of-the-pack ranking.
“This is a guy who was No. 2 ranked on our board. We did not expect him to be there,” Grier told reporters, adding that the pot-smoking clip did not bother him.
“The video is two years old. So from all the information we have, we are comfortable with it.”