Princeton Students Criticize Speaking Invitation to Marshawn Lynch

Marshawn Lynch smiling
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A group of students at Princeton University is pushing back against a decision to invite former NFL player Marshawn Lynch to speak during a university event. The students argued that the decision to invite Lynch doesn’t reflect the “identities and values” of all Princeton students.

According to a report by Campus Reform, students at Princeton are not pleased with a recent decision to invite former NFL player Marshawn Lynch to speak during Princeton Class Day. Lynch received positive press throughout his career for his charitable efforts in his hometown of Oakland.

The students claim that the Class Day speaker selection process should be reformed to incorporate the preferences of a greater portion of the Princeton student body. Previous speakers have included actress Ellie Kemper, a Princeton graduate, and Senator Cory Booker.

According to the students:

To begin with, we feel that the set of criteria for nominees should be clearly defined and transparent to the graduating class. Based on trends in previous selections of Class Day speakers, a common thread seems to be that past speakers either share a connection with the graduation class as Princeton alumni or are widely regarded as exceptional communicators…In this way, the thought process behind the selection of these speakers is apparent. In the selection of Marshawn Lynch, however, it is not evident what the set of criteria for nomination are.

The students highlighted Lynch’s antics during his tenure in the NFL. For example, Lynch had a famously contentious relationship with the press. The students mention that Lynch was fined $150,000 for refusing to speak with the media between 2013 and 2014 but fail to explain why this behavior should disqualify Lynch from speaking at Princeton.

On receiving the email about the speaker announcement, members of the senior class who were not aware of Lynch tried to learn more about his identity and relevance to our Class Day ceremony. Among articles that praised his NFL career and philanthropic contributions, we came across articles discussing Lynch’s reticence with the media and his terse responses at press conferences. In 2013 and 2014, for example, Lynch was fined $50,000 and $100,000 for refusing to speak to the media. During the 2015 Superbowl Media Day, Lynch famously responded to multiple questions with variants of “I’m just here so I won’t get fined.” With no other frame of reference, such reports caused confusion over the set of criteria that led to his nomination.

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