HARTFORD, Conn. - A former UConn soccer player who lost her scholarship after giving the middle finger to a television camera said she is suing the school, calling her punishment excessive.
Noriana Radwan, who now plays for Hofstra, held a news conference Monday in Newburgh, New York. Her lawyer said the lawsuit would be filed later in the day in U.S. District Court in Connecticut.
Radwan made the obscene gesture to an ESPNU camera while celebrating with teammates after the Huskies beat the University of South Florida 3-2 on penalty kicks in the 2014 American Athletic Conference championship game.
Coach Len Tsantiris initially suspended Radwan from the 2014 NCAA Tournament and issued a statement apologizing to the conference, USF and those who watched the game on television.
In her federal lawsuit, a draft of which was given to The Associated Press, Radwan alleges that after the publicity died down, she was stripped of her scholarship midway through the school year without due process for what the coach described as “serious misconduct.”
Radwan said she wrote a letter of apology to UConn officials after the incident, which the school never acknowledged. She also apologized Monday.
“I did not intend to offend anyone. I was making a celebratory statement that was seriously misinterpreted and misjudged,” Radwan said in a prepared statement. “I loved UConn, but I lost faith in it as an institution when it allowed my scholarship to be illegally taken away so abruptly and crassly in the middle of the school year, violating all trust I had.”
She is seeking monetary damages.
“What she really wants is to make sure something like this does not happen to any other young woman,” Greg Tarone, her lawyer said.
Tarone also said that while Radwan’s offense was regrettable, it hardly rises to the level of “serious misconduct,” and the punishment was much harsher than what male athletes at the school have received for more serious offenses. He said a UConn football player, offensive lineman Brian Cespedes, was not even suspended from his team after being arrested Dec. 10 on misdemeanor assault charges stemming from a September incident that was not public at the time.
“It’s clear from the information I’ve gathered that there have been many other incidents of much more serious misconduct and nobody lost a scholarship over it,” Tarone said.
UConn spokeswoman Stephanie Reitz said the school has not seen the lawsuit and cannot comment on it because of federal privacy laws.
Radwan, a midfielder, played in nine games for the Huskies as a freshman. She did not have a goal.
She transferred to Hofstra, where she is on a partial athletic scholarship. She started 17 games this past season, scoring six goals and adding an assist.