Coach on MTSU football player dismissal: 'They made a mistake' - WSMV Channel 4

Coach on MTSU football player dismissal: 'They made a mistake'

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A screen capture of Justin Akins' Snapchat video. (WSMV) A screen capture of Justin Akins' Snapchat video. (WSMV)
MURFREESBORO, TN (WSMV) -

Two MTSU football players under investigation for animal cruelty have been dismissed from the team.

A video posted to Justin Akins’ Snapchat account last month shows Shalom Alvarez hitting a puppy.

Head coach Rick Stockstill announced their dismissal on Friday with this statement:

When confronted with situations of inappropriate conduct, it is easy for a coach to simply dismiss players in trouble without taking time to study the situation. I feel it is important to consider the facts carefully, and seek input from others with information and expertise, before reaching a decision.

After reviewing the matter further, and speaking with authorities with the appropriate expertise, I have decided to dismiss Justin Akins and Shalom Alvarez from our football team. Their actions were in violation of the values and standards of our program.

I appreciate the work by the Rutherford County Pet Adoption and Welfare Services and Murfreesboro Police Department. Their expertise was invaluable in this process and will help educate our players.

Channel 4 first reported on the video Tuesday night.

Stockstill initially said in a statement that the players told him the puppy urinated inside and they were disciplining it. Stockstill called it a “teaching moment” and said he pointed out how disciplining the pet by spanking it could be misconstrued on social media.

Channel 4's Liz Lohuis spoke with Stockstill on the phone Friday night.

“Anytime they fail, they make a mistake, I’m disappointed because I take it as my responsibility to try to educate these guys on everything," Stockstill said.

Stockstill said he was also disappointed in the way the video was perceived. He added he is using it to remind his players about the power of social media.

“They are young players, young people, and they are first time pet owners and they made a mistake. They should have handled it better," Stockstill said.

He also said he constantly reminds his players to have good character as an athlete and a human being.

“I say it all the time, you have to win off the field before you can win on the field, and our guys do a great job for the most part off the field," Stockstill said.

The players had previously been suspended on Wednesday. Athletics Director Chris Massaro announced the suspension in a statement:

The actions captured on this video are obviously disturbing. We welcome the inquiry by the Rutherford County Pet Adoption and Welfare Services. We have high expectations of conduct for our student-athletes. Coach [Rick] Stockstill has suspended these players until the inquiry is complete and they will perform community service to the benefit of local animal welfare efforts.

The video is being investigated by Murfreesboro Police and Rutherford County Animal Control.

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