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Princeton Students Unhappy With NFL Player as Speaker

March 5, 2020

A group of Princeton University students is unhappy that former National Football League running back Marshawn Lynch was chosen as Class Day speaker, saying they are disappointed they were not included in the process that selected him.

When Princeton’s Class Day co-chairs announced Lynch -- who attended the University of California, Berkeley, from 2004 to 2006 -- as speaker, they said he used his spotlight as a professional athlete to “promote opportunities for civic engagement and social justice,” ESPN reported. But some seniors responded in an opinion piece appearing in The Daily Princetonian.

“Saying that Lynch has ‘unapologetically embodied and advocated for our own identities and values’ (as stated in the University’s official Instagram post) without actually consulting us, the Princeton community, is paradoxical and thus questionable,” they wrote. “We do not mean to criticize this choice of speaker in particular, but rather want to call attention to the opaque selection process for Class Day speakers.”

They went on to reference a famous appearance by Lynch at Super Bowl media day in 2015, when he responded to questions by saying he was appearing so he wouldn’t get fined. Without any other frame of reference, students unfamiliar with Lynch were confused “over the set of criteria that led to his nomination,” they wrote.

The authors of the March 4 op-ed were given anonymity due to “credible safety concerns,” according to a note posted at the bottom of the piece.

Class Day is a ceremony that Princeton’s senior class plans and presents. It that typically includes prizes to classmates, student speeches, remarks by the university’s president and a guest speaker. Past speakers have included actress Ellie Kemper, who attended Princeton, and New Jersey senator Cory Booker.

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