Eric LeGrand Will Speak at Rutgers Commencement After Controversy

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
May 6 2014 5:17 PM

Paralyzed Football Player Eric LeGrand Will Speak at Rutgers Commencement After Controversy

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Eric LeGrand injured himself while playing on Rutgers' football team in 2010.

Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for G-Shock

On Saturday, Condoleezza Rice backed out of speaking at Rutgers University's commencement after protests over her support of the Iraq war and waterboarding interrogation techniques. The university then called Eric LeGrand, a beloved former Rutgers football player who was paralyzed during a game and became a motivational speaker while finishing his degree and rehabiliating his body. A solid choice for an institution looking to avoid controversy, right? Not so fast: LeGrand posted a tweet Monday that made it look like he had been slighted for the job.

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While LeGrand was in talks with the university, they were apparently also in talks with former governor Tom Kean. The university announced Kean would be the keynote speaker Monday without apparently saying anything to LeGrand, and he assumed he was pushed off the bill. So in the second round of Rutgers-university-commencement-speaker backlash, the administration was criticized for what looked like intentionally snubbing LeGrand. Today Rutgers President Robert Barchi cleared up what he called a “miscommunication."

"Eric LeGrand will speak at our commencement and personally receive his degree from me as a representative of the Class of 2014,'' Barchi said in a statement. "It was never our intention that Eric would be the only speaker. We have resolved that miscommunication and are delighted to have him participate.''
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It's at least a partial public relations save for a university and athletic department that have not been doing well of late.

Kelly Tunney is a Slate intern in New York City.

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