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USC running back Kenan Christon’s suspension reduced on appeal

USC running back Kenan Christon in the first half of a game in 2019.
(David Zalubowski / Associated Press)

The university suspension that caused USC running back Kenan Christon to miss one football season and threatened to hold him out for another has been reduced on appeal, The Times has learned, potentially allowing Christon to rejoin USC’s football and men’s track teams as soon as this summer.

Christon was suspended in early September, after a physical altercation with another male USC student in which Christon put the student in a headlock for 17 seconds. No arrests were made and no charges were filed. The two students separately reconciled. But a six-week investigation by USC’s Office of Student Judicial Affairs and Community Standards found seven violations of the school’s student code of conduct, and Christon was suspended from campus and university activities through Dec. 14, 2022.

Upon appeal, Christon was still found responsible for all seven student conduct violations, according to a USC decision letter obtained by The Times. But the duration of his suspension was reduced to the end of the upcoming spring semester, meaning he’ll be eligible to return to campus — and football — after May 12, 2022.

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It’s still unclear if whether Christon, who’s also a sprinter on USC men’s track team, will be welcomed back to the football program by newly hired coach Lincoln Riley. When Christon spoke to The Times last month, before Riley’s hiring, he said he had no intention of transferring from USC, but said, at the time, it felt “like I’m obligated to leave, like they don’t want me here.”

Amid claims of racial bias within USC’s student judicial process, suspended USC running back Kenan Christon accuses the school of unfair treatment.

With his suspension now reduced and a new coach in place, a person close to Christon said he’s still hoping to stay at USC.

In a letter to the school, Christon wrote that he was “truly grateful as I have learned a life lesson and appreciate the second chance.”

“I will not disappoint my family or my teammates or the University,” Christon said.

The junior running back spoke publicly for the first time about the Sept. 5 incident at a news conference last month, apologizing then for what he characterized as “a big misunderstanding.”

USC coach Clay Helton is growing very confident in freshman Kenan Christon’s ability to be an all-weather running back for the Trojans.

“I just want to say again, I’m sorry. I would like my life to be back to normal,” Christon said. “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. 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.”

Christon vowed, at the time, to appeal the suspension. He and his lawyer, Anton Diffenderfer, accused the USC investigator tasked with the case of conducting “an incomplete and inadequate investigation,” while local civil rights activist Najee Ali appeared on Christon’s behalf to allege that the university’s student judicial process is “racially biased” and “unfair to student athletes of color.”


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