YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (CN) – A college football player who was convicted of rape in high school and served nearly a year in juvenile detention sued Youngstown State University for not letting him play this season.
Ma’lik Richmond filed a lawsuit against YSU in Youngstown, Ohio federal court on Wednesday, alleging sex discrimination and due-process violations.
Richmond was an all-state linebacker at Steubenville High School, but he was convicted of the 2012 rape of a 16-year-old girl. The school’s quarterback was also convicted in the sexual assault.
According to ESPN, Richmond served less than 10 months of a one-year sentence in juvenile detention and was released in 2014. He returned to the nine-time state championship team at Steubenville High School.
Richmond attended Potomac State College in West Virginia and California University of Pennsylvania. He transferred to YSU because it was closer to home, according to his lawsuit.
He says he also thought YSU’s football coach and president “might be inclined to look beyond serious mistakes he had made and paid for as a juvenile.”
His guardian, Greg Agresta, spoke to YSU President Jim Tressel, who coached Ohio State University to a national championship in 2002, the complaint states.
According to the lawsuit, Tressel agreed that Richmond could play for the Penguins if head coach Bo Pellini agreed. Pellini formerly coached the Nebraska Cornhuskers.
The coach agreed to allow Richmond on the team, the complaint says. He would learn the playbook and work with an assistant coach in 2016 before beginning play in 2017.
The Youngstown Vindicator reported in August that Richmond had made the team. One day later, YSU student Katelyn Davis started an online petition calling for his removal, according to the lawsuit.
“Does he deserve a second chance?” the petition asked. “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.”
Supporters of Richmond started their own petition the next day.
According to the complaint, while Richmond, guardian Jen Agresta, Pelini and Tressel discussed what to do next, YSU released the following statement: “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.”
Richmond’s lawsuit claims YSU officials discriminated against him “to shield themselves and the university from accusations that they failed to adequately respond to victims of sexual assault by supporting rape culture on campus.”
Richmond accuses YSU of sex discrimination, breach of contract and violation of his due-process rights.
He says he has not violated the university’s code of conduct and quoted the university’s statement: “He continues to be in good standing on the YSU campus.”
Richmond also claims that YSU was “infected by an anti-male bias that has swept across universities and colleges and is only now being identified and challenged.”
In addition, Richmond alleges the lack of charges against him and his inability to appeal his removal is a violation of his due-process rights.
The contract claim stems from Richmond paying tuition to YSU and earning a spot on the football team only to be denied the opportunity to play in games that count.
“Every game in which Ma’lik is barred from playing causes him irreparable harm by diminishing the performance data upon which professional teams rely in deciding which players to draft or sign as free agents,” the lawsuit states.
Richmond asked the court for a restraining order that would allow him to step onto the football field for the YSU Penguins, who will host the Central Connecticut Blue Devils on Saturday.
According to police, Richmond’s father, Nathaniel Richmond, shot a judge last month.
Judge Joseph Bruzzese Jr. and a probation officer fired back, and the elder Richmond was killed. Bruzzese survived what Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor called “a cowardly ambush.”
Jefferson County Prosecutor Jane Hanlin told the reports that Bruzzese had “nothing at all to do” with Ma’lik Richmond’s case.
Susan Stone and Kristina Supler of the Cleveland law firm of McCarthy, Lebit, Crystal & Liffman are representing Richmond in his lawsuit against YSU.
The university did not immediately respond Thursday to an email request for comment.