By Justin Wier
Ma’lik Richmond could be a permanent fixture at Youngstown State football games this year after attorneys reached a settlement Monday in the civil-rights lawsuit he brought against the school.
As part of the settlement, Richmond will be allowed to participate in games. He also will undergo Title IX training, according to a statement released by YSU.
“This has been a complex situation,” the statement said. “While the settlement agreement may cause concern for some, we believe it is in the best overall interest of the university, students and the community.”
Richmond’s attorneys did not respond to requests for comments late Monday.
Though the initial complaint asked for monetary damages in addition to an injunction allowing him to participate in games, a university spokesman said there were no monetary terms to the settlement.
According to an Associated Press report, however, the university will pay outstanding court costs.
Richmond, who was convicted of rape as a teen, filed a suit in U.S. District Court on Sept. 13 making several claims against the university after it issued a statement that said Richmond would be allowed to remain on the YSU football team but not participate in athletic competition in response to a petition asking for his removal from the team.
Monday’s motion filed by attorneys for both parties said all claims in the matter have been resolved.
The university will continue to engage the campus in a review of its policies, including policies on participation in athletics and other high-profile activities, the statement said.
Students on campus who spoke to The Vindicator had mostly negative reactions to the settlement.
Jennie Slovak, a junior psychology major, said she was offended and a little hurt.
“I have friends who have gone through [rape],” she said. “Your school saying your feelings don’t matter, it’s OK for this to happen, and that the rapist gets a second chance ... it just sucks.”
Madison Meek, a sophomore in pre-med, said the decision makes her look at the team and school differently.
Cory Gottschling, a senior studying information technology, said everyone deserves a second chance, but Richmond still should face consequences.
“What he did was pretty unnecessary,” he said. “I feel like he does deserve some sort of punishment.”
On Sept. 15, Judge Benita Y. Pearson of U.S. District Court granted a temporary restraining order ruling YSU could not prevent Richmond from playing in football games unless the action resulted from a legitimate coaching decision.
A hearing scheduled for last Thursday that could have extended that order was continued amid rumors of an impending settlement.
Richmond played his first downs as a Penguin in the Sept. 16 game against Central Connecticut State. He did not play Saturday against South Dakota State.
Richmond was one of two Steubenville High School football players a juvenile court judge convicted of rape in a highly publicized 2012 case.
When The Vindicator reported Richmond was on YSU’s roster, a petition circulated asking President Jim Tressel to remove him from the team.
That led to the decision to sit Richmond for a year, prompting the lawsuit.
Richmond’s lawyers argued he was denied the right to play football this season despite not having violated the student code of conduct – which they called a breach of contract – and without due process in violation of the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment.
Richmond’s lawyers also claim the university discriminated against Richmond on the basis of his sex, in violation of Title IX – a federal law that requires universities to provide the same opportunities to both male and female students.
The complaint filed Sept. 13 by Richmond’s attorneys claimed YSU had been “infected by an anti-male bias that has swept across America’s universities and colleges,” which led the university to defer to “female-led advocacy” demanding Richmond be punished for actions that occurred before his time at YSU.
Contributor: Amanda Tonoli, staff writer