Washington Diplomat striker Paul Cannell has been suspended 10 days by North American Soccer League Commissioner Phil Woosnam.

The suspension, stemming from an incident May 13, was effective yesterday and will force the team's leading scorer to miss two games, at Tampa Bay Saturday and against Philadelphia here July 8.

The free-spirited Cannell, disgruntled at a referee's call in a home contest against Tulsa, had expressed his displeasure by briefly lowering his trunks to half-mast. Cannell resumed play after receiving a yellow (warning) card for the incident from Referee Tony Nobile.

"We are shocked at the decision," said Diplomat General Manager John carbray. "We had understood the league investigated the incident in question thoroughly immediately following the Tulsa game, and that the inquiry had long since been closed."

The suspension, for "conduct unbecoming a NASL player," is the third of the season. Earlier, New York Cosmos players Bobby Smith and Stevie Hunt were sat down 10 days each for making obscene gestures during games.

"I will continue to take action against anyone in the NASL whose conduct is detrimental or offensive to the league," said Woosnam.

"The reason no action was taken at the time of the incident is that an initial review was based upon (television) tapes of the game. The tapes did not show the incident in its totality. Subsequently, I have viewed other evidence, which convinced me that action had to be taken."

The June 26 issue of Sports Illustrated ran a picture of Cannell standing on the field with his trunks hanging around his thighs.

According to NASL public relations assistant Amy Oakley, the commissioner would require visual evidence as well as the referee's report before taking action on an offense of this type - one not covered by game rules.

"I don't know what all the fuss is about," said Oakley. "The referee's report of the incident was investigated a little over a week after the game but, when the television tapes showed nothing, we could go no further."

Woosnam said the league office had "continued to receive complaints from fans" after originally dropping the investigation. Those complaints and the picture in Sports Illustrated apparently prompted the suspension.

Cannell, sixth-leading scorer in the league, has 11 goals and seven assists in 21 games.

Washington's Mike Dillon drew a 28-day suspension and was fined $1,500 for pushing a referee after an April 29 game against Dallas.