YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Youngstown State will have an extra player on the sideline on Saturday now that a judge has given Ma’lik Richmond the opportunity to play for the Penguins this weekend against Central Connecticut State.
Another hearing will be held in two weeks to determine if his status on the team will be permanent.
Richmond walked out of court Thursday night, knowing he could put on a red helmet and play for YSU — as long as the coach thinks he’s good enough to be on the field.
“Ma’lik has been working very, very hard, practicing very hard, and we’re very excited for Saturday’s game and we’re very pleased with the result,” his lawyer, Susan Stone, said.
Richmond’s lawyers won a temporary restraining order, allowing him to be on the field.
The university said that he couldn’t play in games this season following protests when people found out he was on the team.
Richmond was found guilty of a sexual assault while he was a juvenile in Steubenville.
The university argued that Coach Bo Pelini can be trumped under Ohio law by the president of the university.
Richmond’s lawyer argued that the president can’t go against the student handbook.
“He was promised things and learned through a press release that he was going to be denied those promises,” Stone said. “They did not follow their handbook. They just, essentially, punished him without any notice, without a hearing, without having an advisor.”
YSU argued that Ma’lik never used a grievance procedure allowed in the handbook and that missing this season would have no effect on his chances to reach the NFL.
But for now, the judge gave Richmond two weeks to get on the field and play. In granting the injunctive relief, the judge noted that it was time he could never get back on the field if he eventually wins the lawsuit.
The attorney general’s office represented YSU in court but deferred comment back to the university afterward. YSU’s communications office has not responded to WKBN’s requests for comment.
Richmond, who was told by the university that he could not compete in games, filed a suit in U.S. District Court in Youngstown, seeking to be reinstated to the team.
In the lawsuit, Richmond claims his civil rights are being violated by the university. He argues that since he is a student at the school and made the football team, he should be allowed to play.
In its response to the lawsuit, YSU stated, “no good deed goes unpunished,” stating that the university “bent over backward” to support Richmond when “no one else would.”
“The rest of the world had written Plaintiff off as an unrepentant rapist, but YSU encouraged him and integrated him as ‘part of the student community,'” the court documents read.
Richmond said YSU didn’t support him during backlash from the community, however, despite what he said were assurances that YSU would do so.
A student petition sought to remove Richmond from the team based on his sexual assault case while he was a high school student in Steubenville. He was found guilty of the rape charge as a juvenile.
In August, YSU announced that Richmond would continue to be part of the team but would not be allowed to compete in games.
The lawsuit states that Richmond was assured by Pelini and YSU President Jim Tressel that despite his misconduct as a teen, he would be allowed to play on the team. Richmond also stated that the university encouraged him to emerge from anonymity to play football and promised to stand behind him in the event of controversy but he said the university broke its promise by publically humiliating him by penalizing him without cause.
YSU’s response said that while it wanted to give Richmond a second chance, it also wanted to send a message that sexual assault is taken seriously at the university. YSU’s response said Richmond’s argument of gender bias in his suit has no standing in regard to the case.