A Washington state high school student, who had caused outrage when he was charged with rape but allowed to continue playing football, has quit the team, school officials said on Wednesday.
Tyler Smith, 18, was arrested last month during football practice at his high school in Hoquiam in western Washington and charged with raping two teenage girls, one in July and another in 2012, court documents show.
Smith told investigators the girls said "no," but that in one case: "I thought she was saying 'no' for pleasure," according to court records. He has pleaded not guilty to the rape charges. His attorney could not be reached for comment.
Smith was released on bail and allowed to resume classes and football practice, sparking outrage from parents amid a wider national debate over how athletes are censured for violence.
Hoquiam School District Superintendent Mike Parker said the allegations against Smith are "disgusting and disturbing," but that the school respects the judicial process and presumes he is innocent until proven guilty.
Hoquiam school officials said on Wednesday Smith had quit the football team voluntarily, even though he was allowed to continue to play ahead of his trial.
Smith's return to the high school field had come as the National Football League (NFL) faces public criticism and the loss of sponsors over how it has handled allegations of domestic violence and sexual assault among professional athletes.
Families of students at the school had expressed anger over Smith's return, saying it sent the wrong message.
"I don't think he should be allowed at school, let alone allowed to play," said Shawn Sinor, whose grandson will attend the high school next year. "The school is definitely downplaying how serious this is, and it sends the message that bullies can get away with it."
Others pointed to the pressure facing the NFL to suspend players charged with felonies.
"I think it should be the same deal as what the NFL is doing. They should be off from it and not playing," the grandfather of one student told KOMO-TV.
The NFL domestic abuse crisis was touched off when former Baltimore Ravens star Ray Rice was suspended for two games for punching his then fiancée, now wife, unconscious in a videotaped incident. Many believed his punishment was too light.
(Reporting by Victoria Cavaliere; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Andrew Hay)