Cal Poly has revoked the wrestling scholarship of Bronson Harmon, a recent Modesto-area high school graduate, after video surfaced of him yelling a homophobic slur and making an obscene gesture during a counter protest of the Families Belong Together March in Modesto on June 30.
Cal Poly Athletic Director Don Oberhelman declined to comment on the reason why Harmon’s scholarship was revoked, however, only saying the university was aware of the video before the athletic department made the decision.
“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,” Bronson Harmon told The Tribune on Tuesday. “But I still feel like my freedom of speech was taken away, and I don’t think my scholarship should have been revoked over something like that.”
Harmon was also allegedly involved in an incident after the slur was captured on video that led to a formal complaint being filed with the Modesto Police Department, according to spokeswoman Sharon Bear.
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Harmon, a recent graduate of Oakdale High School and CIF State Meet medalist, can be seen in one video obtained by The Tribune walking with his father Todd Harmon and a friend carrying a sign that reads “Donald Trump 2016” to counter a march protesting the “zero tolerance” immigration policies of the Trump administration.
Harmon shows his middle finger to the person recording and says “Fu** you fa**ot” as he notices he is being recorded.
Earlier in the video, Todd Harmon can be heard yelling “Send their a**es back!” as he walks down the street. The video has been viewed over 30,000 times on Facebook as of Tuesday evening.
Abdul Lasaing, who recorded the video, said he heard the men shouting as they approached so he pulled out his cell phone.
“I not once said anything to these guys I was just walking,” Lasaing told The Tribune on Wednesday. “I’m not sure if I was disrespected for my skin color or my “World Peace” sign. I was shocked.”
Lasaing said he was scared because one of the men, Todd Harmon, was wearing gloves and looked like he was there to fight.
“They scared families with small children which I find very wrong,” Lasaing said. “And all the racist and homophobic slurs were very disrespectful.”
The incident comes as Cal Poly continues to deal with a series of racist and offensive incidents that occurred on campus in the past year, including multiple instances of students donning “blackface,” the return of alt-right speaker Milo Yiannopoulos and dissemination of white supremacist fliers and graffiti on campus.
In another video posted to Twitter, Harmon can be heard saying, “Take pictures of this! Trump 2020!” as he walks down the street holding the Trump sign. Participants of the march can be heard screaming obscenities in his direction.
“I totally regret it,” Bronson Harmon said of the slur. “I got caught up in the heat of the moment. I was there to peacefully protest the things that we believe, and people were harassing us, spitting on us and calling us Nazis.”
Harmon, his father and friend allegedly became involved in a physical altercation as they left the march.
According to Harmon, he saw a man placing a screwdriver behind the tire of his father’s truck as they were getting ready to leave. The man, who later filed a complaint with police, said he saw the screwdriver and was trying to pick it up to prevent a flat tire.
Bronson and the others confronted the man and allegedly pushed him, according to the complaint, and he fell against a tree and scraped his arm. There was a small amount of blood on his arm and clothing, but he refused medical assistance at that time, Bear said. The victim asked to press charges against Harmon, who is 18 years old. Harmon told The Tribune he never touched the man.
The case has been forwarded to the district attorney’s office for review. No charges have been filed and no arrests have been made as of Tuesday.
Harmon compiled a 35-7 record as a junior at Oakdale, claiming fourth place in the state finals at 160 pounds after a first-place finish in the CIF-Sac-Joaquin Section Masters Meet. He did not wrestle for Oakdale the second half of his senior season after he had a falling out with the coach over which weight class he would wrestle in.
Harmon said Cal Poly wrestling coach Jon Sioredas saw the video and called on July 2 to inform him his scholarship would be revoked. Sioredas did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday.
Oberhelman said 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.
With the Cal Poly wrestling team now out of the picture, Harmon said he plans to focus his energy on becoming a mixed martial arts fighter and, as of Tuesday, still plans to attend Cal Poly in the fall.
“I got accepted, and they said I am welcome still,” Harmon said. “It’s just that they can’t be bringing all this publicity to athletics, so I can’t be involved with athletics.”
Lasaing said he feels bad that Harmon lost his scholarship but added “I do believe there is consequences for your actions.”
“I hope he gets all the help he needs,” Lasaing said.
This story has been updated with more information