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Wrestler loses scholarship over anti-gay slur, complains about limits to ‘freedom of speech’

Sofia Lotto Persio July 18, 2018

The California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly) rescinded a scholarship to a young wrestler after he was filmed hurling homophobic abuse in a video widely viewed on social media.

Footage of 18-year-old wrestler Bronson Harmon holding a pro-Donald Trump sign, making an obscene gesture and shouting “f**k off, faggot!” was viewed more than 30,000 times since it was first posted on June 30, the day a Families Belong Together march—protesting the Trump administration policy of separating migrant children from their parents at the border—took place in the city of Modesto, California.

Abdul Lasaing, who filmed and posted the video, wrote that he was walking back to his car after the march when he encountered the group Harmon was with, led by Harmon’s father. “I heard a group of men shouting and trying to scare us by saying #sendthemback and even yelled at someone nig**! I was so in chocked [sic] so I automatically pulled out my phone to record, and see who was being so disrespectful!” Lasaing wrote. 

Branson Harmon complained about his “freedom of speech” being taken away (Bronson Harmon/Twitter)

One of the people commenting on the video thread recognised and identified Harmon as having won a wrestling scholarship at Cal Poly. “It’s time to take that scholarship away from him” the user wrote in the comment, which was liked by 20 people.

Harmon was recruited in the Cal Poly wrestling team class of 2023 but confirmed to the local newspaper The Tribune he lost his spot after coach Jon Sioredas saw the video.

The recent high school graduate said he regrets the slur but thinks the punishment went too far. “Saying what I said is definitely not the right thing. I am supposed to be there to help the community be the best person I can be and represent the college the best way I can,” he told The Tribune, adding: “I still feel like my freedom of speech was taken away, and I don’t think my scholarship should have been revoked over something like that.”

Bronson Harmon, fifth from left, was recruited as part of the Cal Poly wrestling team Class of 2023 (Cal Poly/Handout)

When the athletes were signed in November, coach Sioredas said of them: “They each embody high character and high work ethic and will be great additions to our program.” Neither Sioredas nor Cal Poly Athletic Director Don Oberhelman told the Tribune the reason why Harmon’s scholarship was revoked. Oberhelman however confirmed the university was aware of the video’s existence.

The video is not the only incident in which Harmon was involved that day. An altercation between him and a man brought the man to press charges against the teenager, according to The Tribune.

More: Cal Poly, California, US, wrestling

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