Why judge ruled for Ma'lik Richmond and against YSU - WFMJ.com News weather sports for Youngstown-Warren Ohio

Read the judge's opinion

Why judge ruled for Ma'lik Richmond and against YSU

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Judge Benita Pearson Judge Benita Pearson

A federal judge thinks a student suing to play football for Youngstown State University has some viable claims against the university.

U.S. District Judge Benita Pearson issued a three-page opinion on Thursday, forbidding the university from preventing Ma'lik Richmond from playing for reasons other than legitimate coaching decisions that are applied equally to other players.

Richmond, who served one year in a juvenile detention facility for raping a 16-year-old girl at a party, became part of the Penguin football team in January.

Richmond making the team wasn't reported by the media until August, which spurred protests from some members of the public, including an online petition to have him kicked off the YSU squad.

The university reacted by announcing that Richmond would not be on the football field for any games and Richmond reacted by suing YSU.

Although Judge Pearson wrote in her opinion that it isn't yet clear if Richmond will prevail if he takes his case before a jury, she calls “viable” Richmond's claims that the university breached a contract with him and that YSU violated the federal law guaranteeing equal opportunities for both male and female athletes.

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Judge Pearson also acknowledged in her opinion that Richmond would suffer “irreparable harm”, due in part to him being banned from playing football for what she characterized as “past behavior—non-YSU student related behavior---without notice or process.”

"No student has a right to play football," said Attorney David Betras of WFMJ's Legally Speaking. "But what the judge says is the reason you (YSU) were keeping him from playing football was based on past behavior and you didn't even give him a hearing."

As for the university's claim that it would suffer harm if Richmond is allowed to play football, Judge Person called the harm “self-inflicted”.

She called the university's claim that allowing Richmond to play would cause harm to the greater community uncertain since public opinion both in favor and against banning Richmond from play is not yet known.

While Pearson acknowledged that the public is interested in promoting respect for the safety of college campuses, she says the public also has a great interest in public institutions keeping promises.

The judge's order forbids YSU from removing Richmond from the active player roster before a hearing scheduled for September 28.

Judge Pearson's order may be read here.

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