USC RB Kenan Christon, lawyer speak out on suspension and appeal process
USC junior running back Kenan Christon has not been with the team since playing a limited role on special teams in the season opener, and on Tuesday he, his family and his representation spoke out about a suspension they feel is excessive.
Christon, his mother Persephonie Christon, his lawyer Anton Diffenderfer and local civil rights activist Najee Ali held a news conference outside of USC's Galen Center to share their side of the matter.
The Los Angeles Times' Ryan Kartje had reported Monday that a six-week investigation by USC’s office of Student Judicial Affairs and Community Standards found Christon responsible for seven violations of the student code of conduct and suspended him from USC’s campus through Dec. 14, 2022.
The investigation involved an altercation with another male USC student that resulted in no arrests or charges filed.
"He made a mistake. He did something that him and the other student were absolutely sorry for. They apologized to each other, they have developed a relationship that is not threatening. They don't have any fear of each other. So we're just confused to as to why [SJACS] would give this type of recommendation for a punishment," Christon's mother said. "It's 18 months for something that the police department didn't even take the time to deal with. It's an extremely excessive punishment for something that happened. And yes, I understand that everything has repercussions, but Kenan has suffered severely at this point and we just want to know when this is going to be over.
"We just don't think he deserves this, the kind of person that he is, how hard he's worked to get here, it's just unfair that him as a black man has to deal with this for such a petty reason. ... At this point we're tired of being quiet and we just want some help."
Christon is a two-spot athlete at USC competing in both football and track and field.
USC's coaches -- former coach Clay Helton, who was fired in mid September, and interim head coach Donte Williams -- have not commented on his situation all season beyond acknowledging he had been removed from team activities.
Neither Christon nor his representation went into specific details on the incident in question Tuesday, but the L.A. Times reported that a Christon got into a dispute on Sept. 5 with the other USC male student who attended high school with Christon’s girlfriend and responded to a post of hers on social media. Per the report, Christon sent a direct message to the other student, asking him not to speak to his girlfriend, and the next day Christon encountered the other student outside his apartment building on Figueroa St.
According to a crime report from USC’s Department of Public Safety obtained by the L.A. Times, the other student claimed Christon confronted him in his apartment’s secured parking garage around 1:20 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 5, followed him out to the street and broke a $500 gold necklace he was wearing and destroyed his sunglasses.
Per the L.A. Times, Christon claims he never entered the parking garage, but acknowledged putting the other student in a headlock and didn't dispute the claims of property damage.
The L.A. Times reports the students have since reconciled.
"First I just wanted to apologize to the school, my family, my friends for the mistakes I've made. It was a big misunderstanding between me and the other student. I just want to say again I'm sorry. I would like my life to be back to normal," Christon said Tuesday morning. "I've worked so hard to be where I am today and for this to happen it's just, it's a lot to me. But I do feel that my punishment is excessive. I have missed out on the football season due to being suspended until the end of next year. I think it's crazy for me to miss a whole 'nother football season. Overall, it seems like this is just stopping my future. It doesn't seem fair. It doesn't seem like this is about who's right and who's wrong, I feel like because I am a person of color and I did a wrong that it's being [treated this way]."
Christon's lawyer claims the incident was "mutual combat" and said the other student was not disciplined.
"That's the problem. The investigation was focused only on Kenan and not on the other student," Diffenderfer said.
Ali said the other student is white and questioned the way the situation was investigated and ruled upon.
"Both students have apologized to each other, but as I said, we're not making this racial but it is what it is. The white student walked away with nothing happening to him, but the black student-athletes have been suspended and had punishment imposed upon them that is very harsh," said Ali, who also alleged similar bias in representing former USC wide receiver Munir McClain last year when he was suspended before ultimately transferring to Utah.
Diffenderfer said Christon is allowed to attend classes during the appeals process, but he did not know what the next step in the process is at this point.
"That's a good question. We don't know. So we're just waiting for the appeal to be reviewed, the decision to be made, but they don't really give us a timeline. We're about a month into it and we really haven't heard anything at all," he said.
"... That's another thing, they take seven weeks to investigate and the appeal process is however many weeks it takes them, and they give the students 10 days to fight for their lives, their careers, everything. It was almost impossible for me to do in 10 days, with the evidence and the facts that we had. So it's a totally rigged system, it's rigged to fail. ... I hope they give him a second chance. He deserves it. That's what we're for, right, is growth?"