Richmond plays for Youngstown State after court decision

FILE – In this March 17, 2013, file photo, Ma'Lik Richmond walks toward the victim and her family to apologize after he and co-defendant Trent Mays were found delinquent on rape and other charges during their trial in juvenile court in Steubenville, Ohio. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic, Pool, File)

YOUNGSTOWN, OH (AP) — Ma’lik Richmond played in Youngstown State’s 59-9 win over Central Connecticut State on Saturday, a day after a federal appeals court declined a university request to keep the defensive end from playing.

Richmond, 21, was convicted of rape as a teenager in Steubenville, Ohio, and he sued Youngstown State this week after the school allowed him to join the football team but then told him he couldn’t play this season. The school backed off its initial decision after a petition began circulating on campus demanding Richmond not be allowed to play.

He entered Saturday’s game late in the third quarter with Youngstown State leading 52-6 and played for the rest of the game.

“You’re happy for the kid,” Youngstown State coach Bo Pelini said. “It’s not about me.”

Youngstown State had asked the appeals court to throw out a decision by U.S. District Court Judge Benita Pearson to temporarily allow Richmond to play football for the school for at least the next 14 days, including Saturday’s game. Pearson has scheduled a Sept. 28 hearing to determine whether to make the decision permanent.

Richmond finished with two tackles in the game, including one for a two-yard loss, and he forced a false start penalty by Central Connecticut State. The defensive end also celebrated a sack by teammate Xavier Bailey in the fourth quarter by pushing Bailey to the ground following the play.

Youngstown State appealed the decision allowing Richmond to temporarily play to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday morning, and the appeals court dismissed it that afternoon.

Richmond, of Steubenville, was allowed to join the football team as a walk-on before being told by the school he couldn’t play this season. He is seeking reinstatement to the team’s active roster along with attorney fees and an unspecified amount in damages. The university argued in its appeal that the school has a right to stop Richmond from playing to prevent campus protests and disruptions to the team.

The appeals court, however, said Youngstown State failed to show that a temporary order allowing Richmond back on the team “has serious or irreparable consequences.”

Richmond served about 10 months in a juvenile prison after he and a Steubenville High School teammate were convicted in 2013 of raping a 16-year-old girl during an alcohol-fueled party. The case made international headlines and led to allegations of a cover-up to protect Steubenville’s storied football team.

He was released in January 2014 and attended colleges in West Virginia and Pennsylvania before transferring to Youngstown State in the fall of 2016 as a sophomore.

Richmond and his legal guardians spoke with Youngstown State President Jim Tressel and Pelini about him joining the team, and both were supportive, the lawsuit says. Richmond made the team as walk-on defensive end in January.

After Pelini made his decision public, a female student at Youngstown State began circulating a petition calling for the school to not allow Richmond to play football.

Youngstown State subsequently issued a statement in a university-wide email saying the school takes sexual assault very seriously, and that Richmond would be allowed to continue practicing with the team but would lose a year of eligibility.

Richmond quit the team after learning of the email.

Richmond’s father, 51-year-old Nathaniel Richmond, was shot and killed Aug. 21 in Steubenville by a probation officer. Authorities said Richmond shot at a judge who returned fire before the probation officer killed Richmond.

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