SOUTHFIELD — A motion to dismiss assault charges against four Star International Academy football players was announced at a press conference on Tuesday, Jan. 24, as a coalition of civil rights leaders spoke out against what they called a "sloppy" and biased investigation by Dearborn Heights police.
|Standing:Star International Academy seniors (L-R) Ali Bajjey, Hadee Attia, Fanar Al-Asady and Mohamed Ahmed. |
Sitting: (L-R) CAIR-MI Executive Director Dawud Walid, attorney Nabih Ayad and ACRL Executive Director Rashid Baydoun.
Quarterback P.J. Guse of the opponent Westland Lutheran ran off the field after the scuffle; the family said he suffered a concussion as a result according to an interview with WXYZ-Detroit.
Attorney and Michigan civil rights commissioner Nabih Ayad, supported by Aaron Sims, President of the NAACP of Western Wayne County, Arab American Civil Rights League Executive Director Rashid Baydoun, and Council on American-Islamic Relation-Michigan Executive Director Dawud Walid, said that the investigation was not properly balanced or transparent.
"This was a sloppy investigation and charge by the Dearborn Heights Police Department and Wayne County Prosecutor, there were 22 witnesses and not one was Arab American even though an entire half of the football stands had Arab Americans who could be witnesses."
Ayad said that attempts to discuss the investigation were not reciprocated, which had never happened in his career as an attorney.
"It is indeed a sad day in our justice system when we are criminally charging our young people for playing football...When you enter a football game you officially waive your right to say, 'this would be an assault and battery, otherwise every tackle, every fumble (situation) would be.'"
Ayad said that his firm searched for days and couldn't find any similar outcomes except for civil cases in which there was an "unreasonable type of action" such as a weapon involved. He also pointed out Detroit Lion Ndamukong Suh's infamous stomping incident in which he was suspended but no criminal charges were brought after he shoved the head of an opposing player into the ground twice and stomped on him as he got up during a Thanksgiving game, and noted that pro basketball incidents involving adults have left players unconscious or bloodied on the floor and led to suspensions but not criminal charges.
The press conference was held at CAIR-MI's main office, where Walid and other civil rights reps said that bias had an effect on the charges. Gathered media were shown the video of the incident, which didn't show any kicking or punching or other behaviors that were originally reported by some outlets.
"We want everyone to watch the video of what went down, because the proof is in the pudding," Walid said.
He noted that such scuffles are commonplace during football games as a former college player.
"If minors were charged as adults, football would be a banned sport in America," adding that the "half of the Detroit Lions" would also be charged and noting that the Star players are minors.
CAIR-MI, the ACRL and the Western Wayne NAACP all sent a letter to Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy requesting the dismissal of the charges and also questioning why a Westland Lutheran coach was not charged for his similar role in the scuffle, considering he went after a minor.
The Star players faced suspensions from the school following the scuffle, but the civil rights advocates believe that the charges were uncalled for, especially considering the lack of precedent.
Three of the four students are on the honor roll and Attia said he has a scholarship to Oakland University that he hopes is not affected. When asked if racial bias was involved, he said "Yes," noting the lack of precedent in other cases involving football scuffles.
"We stand in solidarity with the other civil rights groups here today calling for removal of these charges," Baydoun said.
"We are baffled as to how something like this can be taken to such a level...If we allow for such cases to be tried then we're basically setting ourselves up for any sports (incidents) to be tried in such a manner.
"We definitely feel due to the actions taken by Dearborn Heights Police that this was done in a biased way, and the lack of transparency makes it even more of an issue...We're very alarmed and we continue to investigate and demand transparency."