A law student who sent Stan Collymore a series of racist tweets has been spared jail.
Joshua Cryer, 21, admitted using the social networking site to bombard the football pundit with abuse in an attempt to "snare a celebrity", a district judge at Newcastle Magistrates' Court heard today.
Cryer told police he hoped to gain a reaction from Collymore, who is a broadcaster for talkSport, campaigns against racism and is a supporter of the Depression Alliance charity.
The Newcastle University student, who lives in the Jesmond area of the city, claimed his account had been hacked.
He later admitted a charge under section 127 of the Communications Act of sending grossly offensive messages.
District Judge Stephen Earl ordered that he complete a two-year community order with 240 hours unpaid work, and pay £150 costs to the court.
Cryer, from Burnley, Lancashire, was arrested in January after Collymore, a former England striker, reported online abuse to Staffordshire Police and they passed the matter to their Northumbria Police counterparts.
The student, who is captain of a Newcastle University football team named BarceLawNa, had called the 41-year-old a "coon".
Prosecuting, Veronica Jordan said Cryer was "showing off" and boasted to friends that he had "found a new hobby".
She said: "It was not impulsive. He has done this up to seven times over a period of days.
"That does not smack of impulsive behaviour.
"He was intending to insult and abuse."
Passing sentence, Judge Earl said it would not serve society to send Cryer to jail.
But he said he would make an example of Cryer, who had acted in a way which was "foolish, immature, and pathetic".
"You know this conviction will have a dramatic effect on your job and career prospects, but you put yourself here and you have to man up to that reality.
"I don't doubt you are not an inherently racist person but you did act in an intentionally racist way.
"You intended to get a rise out of Mr Collymore. He has made a justifiable and reasoned stance against you to the point where you shut down your Twitter account.
"I find it difficult to fathom what on Earth you thought you were doing. It was stupid and you ought to have known better.
Racist tweeter Cryer captains his university football team
"You were a legend in your own head in this attention-seeking moment."
He said people should think before they tweeted.
Mitigating, Andrew O'Hanlon said his client had many Asian friends.
He said: "He is not somebody I would regard as being a dyed-in-the-wool racist.
"The reason he contacted Collymore in the first place was he is a fan of his."
Cryer, who attended court with his father and sisters, did not speak as the sentence was passed.
Collymore, originally from Cannock, Staffordshire, played for a string of top clubs, including Liverpool, Aston Villa and Nottingham Forest.
Chief Crown Prosecutor Wendy Williams said: "The CPS understands the serious nature of racist crime and the real and lasting effects it can have, not just on individuals and their families, but also upon communities and society as a whole.
"In this case, Cryer repeatedly abused his victim over a number of days, boasting to others beforehand about what he intended to do.
"I would hope that today's sentence proves a sufficient deterrent to anyone foolish enough to consider engaging in similar activity."
CPS North East also issued a strong warning to others about the consequences of using social networking sites to make racist remarks.
"In recent months we have seen a number of similar cases in the North East, in which people have been racially abused through social networking sites.
"Ironically, the strongest evidence in each of these cases has been directly provided by the defendants themselves.
When a person makes such comments digitally, they effectively hand police and prosecutors much of the evidence needed to build a robust case against them."
Following the sentence, Collymore posted on his Twitter account @StanCollymore: "Would like to thank Northumbria & Staffordshire Police for their professionalism in dealing with this case."