USC running back Kenan Christon appeals suspension

Junior running back Kenan Christon carries the ball during his freshman season.
Junior running back Kenan Christon impressed in his first season with the Trojans, displaying elite speed and rushing for 53.3 yards per game. (James Wolfe | Daily Trojan file photo)

USC running back Kenan Christon and his lawyer Anton Diffenderfer are accusing USC and its Student Judicial Affairs and Community Standards of being racially insensitive regarding Christon’s suspension from the team and other school activities in September. 

Christon was suspended Dec. 14 because of an altercation with another USC student. The two students have now reconciled, according to Christon, but a six-week investigation by a USC judicial officer found Christon responsible for seven violations of student conduct.

He is now appealing the suspension, accusing Barton of completing an “incomplete and inadequate investigation,” according to the Los Angeles Times.

“We have looked at this in line with university policy and have taken appropriate action,” said the University in a statement to the Daily Trojan. “We are unable to talk about the details because of student privacy laws.”

Members of the United Black Student-Athletes Association, Christon, Diffenderfer and civil rights activist Najee Ali hosted a press conference Tuesday in front of Galen Center asking the University and Student Affairs to reevaluate the case.

“I really want the appeals more to really look at [the suspension], and I feel if it’s anything like the investigation, they’re just going to rubber stamp it and move it down the line,” said Diffenderfer in an interview with the Daily Trojan. “So [the press conference] will hopefully get them to, you know, take the file and put it on top of other files and make it a priority.” 

Diffenderfer said the other student involved was not reprimanded and the investigation was solely focused on Christon. The investigators knew about the reconciliation between the two, but it “didn’t appear to have any bearing [on the situation],” he said.

USC also provided no reasoning as to why the other student was left out of the investigation, according to Diffenderfer. 

“When you look [at the case] on its face, it’s pretty unbelievable,” Diffenderfer said. “You got two students involved in something, and one is completely dismissed and the focus is just on [Christon] … It’s really about the process, and the process is just as terrible.”

Once he received word of his suspension, Christon was given 10 days to decide whether or not he would appeal. Diffenderfer called the appealing system “doomed from the beginning.”

“It’s almost impossible for me to do it in 10 days. There’s so much evidence and facts that we have to figure out,” he said. “It’s totally rigged to fail.”

Neither Diffenderfer nor Christon have been in contact with the Athletic Department regarding the suspension. Diffenderfer mentioned that the appeal process for Christon and Student Affairs was not similar to a “legal process.” 

“[Student athletes are] not allowed to be represented,” Diffenderfer said. “There’s nobody there to really help them through [the legal process] and make sure that they are asked fair questions and stuff like that. So they got to do it all by themselves.” 

Ali, a USC alumnus, spoke at the event noting previous instances of racial discrimination against Black student-athletes. 

He also argued USC continues to mistreat Black student athletes consistently. 

“I know, for a fact, that there’s always been a double standard in the way that white students and Black students have been treated,” Ali said. “We’re seeing Black student-athletes being punished very harshly and severely, but the white students have no punishment whatsoever.”

The outcome of Christon’s appeal will weigh heavily on Black athletes deciding whether or not they should attend USC, according to Ali. 

He offered the example of former USC wide receiver Munir McClain who was suspended in September 2020. McClain was suspended because of an investigation involving USC students planning to apply for Employment Development Department benefits during the coronavirus pandemic. McClain and his brother Abdul-Malik McClain eventually entered the transfer portal and left the University. 

Diffenderfer hopes USC will consider Christon’s appeal along with other pieces of evidence in the coming weeks. 

“I think, really, we’re just in a holding period now,” Diffenderfer said. “So nothing can really be done until we find out about the appeal and, from that, decide what needs to be done next, and hopefully, nothing.”