Middle Tennessee dismissed two football players from the team on Friday amid an animal cruelty police investigation into a video of the men allegedly striking a dog.
Blue Raiders defensive lineman Justin Akins and linebacker Shalom Alvarez were first suspended by head coach Rick Stockstill on Wednesday after Murfreesboro, Tenn., police were contacted by a concerned citizen of a video on Akins’ Snapchat account showing him allegedly hitting a puppy four times.
“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,” Stockstill said in a statement Friday. “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.”
Stockstill said earlier in the week in a statement to WSMV-TV in Nashville that the players told him they were disciplining the dog and did not intend to harm it.
“The players explained to me that the puppy urinated inside and they were simply spanking it as a form of discipline,” Stockstill said Tuesday. “They told me there was never any intent to harm the dog. This was an important teaching moment. I talked to them about other approaches that should have been considered in this situation. And I pointed out how disciplining a pet in such a manner could be misconstrued, especially with the impact of social media.”
The dog did not belong to either player, according to WSMV. There have been no arrests or charges thus far in the investigation.
Akins, a senior, played in all 13 games last season and recorded 27 tackles. He recorded 1.5 sacks over the past two seasons.
Alvarez, a junior, joined the Blue Raiders in 2016 but did not play last year.