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COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A man convicted of rape as a teen in a case that drew international attention will be part of the Youngstown State football team this year but won't be allowed to play in any games, the school said Wednesday in responding to criticism surrounding his participation.
Ma'Lik Richmond served about 10 months in a juvenile lockup after being convicted with another Steubenville High School football player of raping a 16-year-old girl during an alcohol-fueled party in 2012. The case brought international attention to the eastern Ohio city of 18,000 and led to allegations of a cover-up to protect the football team.
Richmond, now 21, will be a member of the team at Youngstown State, a Football Championship Subdivision school in northeastern Ohio, but will forfeit a year of participation, the school said in a statement.
"He will be given the opportunity to benefit from group participation, the lessons of hard work and discipline, as well as the camaraderie and guidance of the staff and teammates," the statement said.
"He will also continue to work with the university's director of student outreach and support who assists young men and women in becoming successful students and YSU graduates."
News of Richmond's participation drew a wave of criticism in the university community recently, and a petition was started to keep him from playing for the Penguins.
The school said Richmond participated in spring practice and earned a spot on the roster as a walk-on. Youngstown State coach Bo Pelini told The Vindicator in Youngstown that he had sought out Richmond, a linebacker, after learning the young man was already attending the school. Richmond last played football at Steubenville in 2014 after serving his prison sentence.
Pelini said he met with Richmond and educated himself about the case before deciding that he deserved a chance to play.
Richmond's co-defendant in the rape case, Trent Mays, has joined the football team at Division II Central State University in Ohio after playing quarterback for two years at Hocking College. The community college got similar criticism when it took on Mays in 2015.
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