Harmon’s Flimsy Hold on the First Amendment

By Violet Mbela, Copy Editor

Everyone has basic rights under the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights. Oftentimes, Americans love to flaunt the fact that they “know their rights.” While the phrase can be heard virtually everywhere, not everyone fully understands the true extent of how far said rights can protect them. Specifically, the First Amendment that guards American freedom of speech. 

By definition, freedom of speech is “a principle that supports the freedom of an individual or a community to articulate their opinions and ideas without fear of retaliation, censorship, or legal sanction,” (Freedom of Press and Speech, 2019). According to the definition, opinions and ideas can be articulated without fear of what can essentially be boiled down to basic consequences. Despite this, anyone living in a society can attest that nothing can be said without some sort of consequence: negative or positive. Pro-Trump high school wrestler, Bronson Harmon is now witnessing the effects of such negative consequences. 

 The newly-graduated Harmon has had his wrestling scholarship to California Polytechnic State University rescinded after a video surfaced of him yelling a homophobic slur at anti-Trump protesters during a counter protest of the Families Belong Together March in Modesto on June 30. Harmon, his father, and others were at the scene carrying signs in support of the current President of the United States and his zero-tolerance immigration policies. There, activist Abdul Lasaing recorded a heated exchange between Harmon and anti-Trump protesters at the event, which led to Bronson Harmon’s scholarship being revoked. This calls into question a debate on the First Amendment laws.

If Harmon was simply “articulating his opinions and ideas” why is it that such opinions brought forth both retaliation and sanction in the form of a rescinded scholarship? The answer lies here: Cal Poly Athletic Director Don Oberhelman has since stated that “the offer of financial aid signed by all student athletes says the university can cancel aid for actions that could cause embarrassment to the school at the discretion of the athletic director” (Gibson, 2018). It can be argued that Harmon’s actions pose a threat to the prestige of Cal Poly, especially since the school itself has been caught in many racist and controversial scandals, such as students performing blackface and spitting out racial and homophobic slurs. Because of this, it comes as no surprise that Cal Poly is not taking this matter lightly to protect their already tarnished name.

So, Harmon can claim that these events encroach on his First Amendment rights, but at the end of the day, everyone must realize that their actions have consequences. If you cannot cope with the consequences of your actions, then the actions themselves are not worth committing.