Christon apologized for his behavior during the incident, in which he and another student got into a verbal altercation before Christon put the other student in a headlock. For this incident, Christon has been suspended from the football and track and field teams until Dec. 14, 2022.
Christon has not played in a single football game for USC this season, and has not been allowed to practice with the team.
“It was a big misunderstanding between me and the other student. I just want to say again I’m sorry,” Christon said, family and teammates from the track team standing behind him. “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.”
Added social activist Najee Ali, “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.”
In the incident, as described in a copy of Christon’s appeal of his punishment obtained by the Southern California News Group, Christon had asked the other student to stop communicating with Christon’s girlfriend. Christon and his girlfriend asked for the other student’s address so they could meet and resolve the situation, but the other student provided a fake address Sept. 4.
The next day, Christon and the other student met in the parking lot of the student’s apartment building. Christon maintained this meeting was coincidental, while the other student alleged that Christon was waiting for him to appear.
Andrew Barton, the officer who investigated the incident for USC’s Student Judicial Affairs and Community Standards, concluded it was “more likely” that the other student’s account was accurate, though there was no video evidence to back up either claim.
During the altercation, Christon damaged property of the other student and put him in a headlock. Soon after, USC’s Department of Public Safety responded to the scene but declined to file any charges. Both students have since apologized to each other, per Christon’s appeal.
After a six-week investigation, Christon was given a 14-month suspension from athletics while the other student was not punished. Christon appealed the punishment but has not received an answer in the month since submission.
“The investigation was focused only on Kenan and not on the other student,” Christon’s attorney, Anton Diffenderfer, said at Tuesday’s press conference.
In a university statement, USC said, “We have looked at this in line with university policy and have taken appropriate action. We are unable to talk about the details because of student privacy laws.”
Diffenderfer alleged USC’s investigation was flawed, stating that video evidence and screen shots of conversations were not taken into account. In his appeal, Christon alleged that Barton interviewed the other student only once and did not question him about Christon’s version of events.
In his appeal, Christon laid out his intention to seek anger management counseling and reiterated that he has no past history of physical violence at USC.
“We just don’t think he deserves this, the kind of person that he is, how hard he’s worked to get here,” his mother, Persephonie, said through tears Tuesday. “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.”
Diffenderfer did not outline what the next steps are in this process, expressing hope that USC reconsiders the punishment after reviewing Christon’s appeal. But he expressed frustration with how the student judicial process has been established at USC.
“The full investigation process, there’s no oversight. The investigator gives charges and then they submit. You don’t appeal it, that’s it,” Diffenderfer said. “They give the students 10 days to [appeal and] 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.”
Ali added, “Kenan wants to stay here and be a part of the Trojan family, but he can only do that if he’s treated fairly.”