Ma'lik Richmond, post-verdict, (March, 2013).
Late Thursday, a federal judge granted Ma'lik Richmond a temporary restraining order against Youngstown State University, saying that YSU couldn't forbid the sophomore defensive tackle from suiting up for games — at least for the next two weeks.
Richmond filed a complaint against the University Wednesday. His lawyers argued that Richmond's rights had been infringed when YSU issued a statement declaring that Richmond must forfeit a year of eligibility.
The university's decision came in response to heated campus debate and a student-led online petition calling for Richmond's removal from the team. Richmond was found delinquent (the juvenile equivalent of guilty) of sexual assault in 2013, when he was a member of the Steubenville High School football team. Though Richmond served a year in juvenile detention for his crimes, the campus opposition held that Richmond hadn't been sufficiently punished.
"For many years, athletes have constantly been given additional chances because they are athletes," read the Change.org petition
. "What does this say about rape culture? That athletes can do no wrong; that they can get away with anything because of how they perform on the field or in the gym?
"Does he deserve a second chance? Yes, he does, and he is receiving that second chance by furthering his education on YSU's campus. Does he deserve the privilege of playing on a football team and representing a university? Absolutely not. Education is a right, whereas playing on a sports team is not."
In its statement, YSU said Richmond could remain a member of the football program, but just couldn't participate in games this season.
Richmond's lawyers argued that YSU had unduly penalized Richmond, for no sanctionable offense, "to shield themselves from accusations that they had failed to adequately respond to victims of sexual assault," thought no sexual assault has occurred. Richmond has been a student in good standing at YSU and has not violated the student code of conduct in any way.
The lawyers said that with fewer games of eligibility, Richmond would have fewer opportunities to impress NFL scouts — his ultimate goal is playing in the NFL. The Youngstown Vindicator reported
that lawyers for YSU argued that two years of eligibility would still be plenty, and that few players advance to the NFL anyway. After Judge Benita Pearson, in Youngstown, granted Richmond the restraining order, YSU appealed the decision Friday morning.
As it stands, Richmond will be permitted to play Saturday, when the YSU Penguins take on the Central Connecticut State Blue Devils.