This is at least a step in the right direction, even as it fails to go as far as it needs.
Word surfaced earlier this week that an online petition was seeking the removal of Ma’Lik Richmond from the Youngstown State football roster. In 2013, Richmond was one of two football players from Steubenville High School in Ohio to be convicted of raping a 16-year-old high school girl, and served a year for his crime.
The fact that Richmond was on an FCS roster, given that he’s a convicted rapist, created an instantaneous firestorm of criticism for both the football program and university, not the least of which was the Change.org petition that has, as of this posting, garnered nearly 11,000 supporters. Wednesday evening, YSU buckled to the mounting pressure, announcing in a statement that Richmond will not play for the Penguins in 2017 even as he will still be a member of the team and be permitted to practice as a walk-on.
Suffice to say, the institution stopped short of the stated goal of its online critics: “I ask that Richmond be removed from the football team, and this privilege [of playing on a sports team] be revoked from someone who absolutely does not deserve it.” How much longer the Richmond distraction will be allowed to linger for Bo Pelini‘s football program — and Jim Tressel‘s university — remains to be seen.
Below is the university’s statement, in its entirety:
Youngstown State University takes the matter of sexual assault very seriously and continues to educate everyone within the campus community about the impact and prevention of sexual assault.
The University is fully aware of the gravity of the situation and of petitions that are circulating on social media in protest and support of one of our students, Ma’lik Richmond. We value the input of the entire YSU community and are committed to providing a safe learning environment and growth opportunities for all students, faculty and staff.
Ma’lik Richmond transferred to Youngstown State University in good standing from his prior institution for Fall 2016. After matriculating at YSU, he expressed a desire to try out for the football program. Ma’lik was advised by the coaching staff that if he integrated himself within the campus community academically and socially and completed the fall semester in good standing, further discussions could occur.
In January, Ma’lik again inquired about trying out for the team. At this time, he was permitted to participate on a tryout basis with the team, for winter workouts. At the conclusion of winter workouts, he was permitted to practice with the team as a walk-on from February to April. Ma’lik Richmond earned a spot on the 105-man roster on August 2 as a walk-on and is not receiving an athletic scholarship. He continues to be in good standing on the YSU campus.
YSU does not restrict any student’s ability to take part in extracurricular activities as long as they are in good standing with the institution. YSU believes that extracurricular activities assist in a student’s ability to succeed.
For the Fall 2017 football season, Ma’lik will not be permitted to compete in any games, but will continue to be a part of the football program as a practice player, forfeiting a year of eligibility. He will be given the opportunity to benefit from group participation, the lessons of hard work and discipline, as well as the camaraderie and guidance of the staff and teammates. He will also continue to work with the University’s director of student outreach and support who assists young men and women in becoming successful students and YSU graduates.
As a state university, YSU is fully committed to complying with Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 which prohibits gender discrimination in education programs and activities, including sexual assault. The University has increased its efforts in the past years to inform, educate and prevent sexual assault and to provide services to victims of sexual assault. YSU is committed to eradicating sexual assault and educating our students beyond the classroom in order to be productive members of society.