Update: Youngstown State announced on Wednesday night that Ma'lik Richmond will not be playing football for the Penguins this season. He will, however, remain part of the football program and participate in practice, though he will forfeit a year of eligibility.
"Youngstown State University takes the matter of sexual assault very seriously and continues to educate everyone within the campus community about the impact and prevention of sexual assault," read a statement from the school. "The University is fully aware of the gravity of the situation and of petitions that are circulating on social media in protest and support of one of our students, Ma'lik Richmond. We value the input of the entire YSU community and are committed to providing a safe learning environment and growth opportunities for all students, faculty and staff."
Ma'lik Richmond is set to make his Division I college football debut this season as a member of the Youngstown State football team. But as the team prepares for the season, one student is asking coach Bo Pelini and university president Jim Tressel to remove him from the team.
Richmond, a defensive tackle, was a high school player in Stuebenville, Ohio, when he was charged and convicted in the 2012 rape of a 16-year-old girl. He was released after serving time in a juvenile detention center and returned to his high school football team.
Pelini said Richmond enrolled at Youngstown State in August 2016 and joined the football program as a walk-on in January.
"I gave him some stipulations and some things he had to be able to do, and if he lived up to them, he'd be able to come out and see if he could be a member of our football team. He did those things and continues to do those things right now, and he's done a nice job for us," Pelini told WFMJ in Youngstown.
As of Monday morning, the petition to have Richmond removed has 6,800 supporters. Katelyn Davis, the listed author on Petition.org, detailed her cause.
"For many years, athletes have constantly been given additional chances because they are athletes," Davis wrote. "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."