New York teen and high school football star Rahmel Ashby, 17, has returned to the field to play in the city championship game in Yankee Stadium despite a pending attempted murder charge.
Ashby was arrested in Brooklyn, NY, on April 29, 2014 after he allegedly fired a gun into a crowd of people, injuring three. Although Ashby made bail – $50,000 – on October 30 he was taken into custody for a second time after New York police claim they found him armed with a loaded.380 semi-automatic handgun.
“We intend to make sure that justice is done in this case, and we will hold this man accountable for what he did,” said Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson in a statement.
— Sporting News (@sportingnews) December 5, 2015
Luckily for Ashby, he was released on bail on a $500,000 bail just in time to play for Grand Street Campus High School’s championship game against Erasmus Hall on Sunday.
Ashby’s team won 28-26.
— Amanda Farinacci (@amandafarinacci) December 6, 2015
Ashby’s attendance at the game has since stirred up controversy between fans, fellow students, and concerned parents.
“He should be allowed to play,” fan Renaldo Charles, from Long Island, told the NY Daily News. “Whatever happens outside the high school stays out. It should not affect his games. He will have his day in court.”
A fellow student of Ashby’s, who wished to remain anonymous, insisted that Ashby was “a good person.”
“He didn’t do any of that,” the student told NY Daily News. “He’s a good football player too. He should be able to play. He’ll dal with the other stuff later.”
Some fans even took to social media to express their support.
I totally support #RahmelAshby & I hope that any football team that he is a member of wins!!
— Ms. Pinky Stanseski (@undergradwoman) December 6, 2015
According to CBS Local, Ashby was eligible to play because while the New York City Department of Education (DOE) has requirements regarding attendance and GPA, it does not have eligibility guidelines concerning criminal allegations. The DOE says the decision is ultimately up to the individual school.
In addition to the fans’ support, the star running back’s teammates have also stood behind him.
“We never think about negativity at Grand Street Campus,” Quarterback Sharif Harris-Legree told CBS Local. “He’s a great kid, he’s qualified, and he’s our brother.”
Cornerback Justin Phillip added, “We’re just together as a family. With situations like this, we just come closer together as a team.”
Others, however, were not as forgiving.
“He should not be playing,” said a high school referee from Brooklyn, who remains anonymous. “These are serious charges,” the ref continued. “Other students aren’t allowed to play for a lot less.”
Parents also chimed in on the issue. One mother whose son plays for Curtis High School stated she was “terrified” her son would be playing against someone charged with attempted murder.
“Something has to change,” the woman told NY1. “There’s no way that you can put kids that actually work towards their future on a field with kids that aren’t working towards their future. They’re working towards the detriment of society.”
— Boyce Watkins (@drboycewatkins1) December 8, 2015
Shawn Klein, a philosopher and sports ethicist, claims that defendants are innocent until proven guilty and that a blanket ban against players facing criminal allegations could be unfair.
“He could be innocent, and if he’s innocent and then deprived of this opportunity to play in a championship game, it could have a long-lasting impact on his life,” Klein told NY1.
However, Klein also said that the school is responsible for investigating the charges to see if Ashby should play.
The Brooklyn DA says that Ashby’s attempted murder trial is set to take place January 2016.
[Photo by Gregory Payan/AP Images]