Steubenville High School's season-opener Thursday night marked a return to the gridiron for wide receiver Ma'lik Richmond, who was sidelined last season.
That's because the high school senior was behind bars, serving a juvenile prison sentence for rape.
Richmond and another Steubenville High football player were involved in a sexual assault on a 16-year-old girl, who was intoxicated to the point of alcoholic coma. The attack, which surfaced in part because of videos of the incident, drew nationwide attention and raised questions whether school officials and coaches covered up players' involvement because the "Big Red" team reigns supreme in Steubenville.
Richmond, 18, has served his prison sentence, but as a convicted Tier II sex offender he will have to register his whereabouts every six months for up to 20 years.
There are those who would argue that he has paid the price for his crime and, as a onetime juvenile offender is entitled to a chance at redemption.
We believe a convicted rapist has no place on the high school gridiron -- or in the classroom, for that matter. As an athlete and potential role model in a "football town" such as Steubenville, he ought to be held to a higher standard.
The fact that Richmond has served his time does not erase the fact that he committed a horrendous crime against a young woman. The idea that "Big Red" fans may be cheering his exploits on the gridiron is repugnant. And we can't imagine how young women at Steubenville High must feel when encountering him there, knowing the actions that sent him to prison.
Steubenville High football coach Reno Saccocia, who continues to coach "Big Red" despite speculation that he attempted to shield Richmond and the other player convicted of rape, told a local TV station that Richmond had earned a second chance.
We disagree. Because of his actions, he has forfeited the privilege -- and involvement in extracurricular activities such as athletics is a privilege, not a right -- to return to the football field. And, because of his conviction of a violent crime, he also has forfeited his place in the classroom. While he has a legal right to an education, arrangements ought to be made for instruction off-site.
Having Ma'lik Richmond on the football field isn't about second chances or redemption. It's a signal that, as far as Steubenville High School is concerned, it's still business as usual when it comes to football. And evidently that means a sense of entitlement for those on the gridiron; it appears that they can do just about anything -- including raping a teenage girl -- without lasting consequences.
There's a rapist on the gridiron at Steubenville High School this fall. He has no place being there.