A former University of Connecticut athlete from New York's Hudson Valley who was stripped of her full college scholarship after she raised a middle finger following a championship game victory has won a victory in court, a report by Courthouse News Service said.
In November 2014, UConn women's soccer player and then-freshman Noriana Radwan, from the Dutchess County village of Wappingers Falls, flashed her middle finger to a television camera after her team beat the University of South Florida 3-2 in the American Athletic Conference championship game.
Immediately after the win, UConn Head Coach Len Tsantiris suspended Radwan and issued a statement apologizing for her action, according to the news outlet.
Just a month after the game, Tsantiris then told Radwan that the school was canceling her full-ride for the spring of 2015, according to Courthouse News Service.
"I couldn’t have known that split-second, mindless gesture of celebration would cause UConn to suspend me from the NCAA tournament, revoke my scholarship, and completely upend my life as I knew it. All for a stupid mistake," Radwan wrote in an essay for the American Civil Liberties Union in 2020.
In the same essay, Radwan said the harsh punishment for her mistake was a result of discrimination based on her gender.
"UConn’s harsh punishment left me feeling ostracized. They attacked my whole identity as a career athlete. And I don’t think the same thing would have happened if I were a male athlete," Radwan wrote in the essay for the ACLU.
Radwan then decided to pursue legal action against UConn, she said in the essay. At first, her case was dismissed at summary judgment by a federal judge, but on Wednesday, Nov. 30, an appellate court found that a jury should be able to decide if the suspension and termination of her scholarship was a result of discrimination or not, Courthouse News Service reported.
"Viewing the facts in the light most favorable to Radwan, a reasonable jury could conclude that one or more of these male student-athletes at UConn was sufficiently similar in all material respects to Radwan to raise an inference that, but for her gender, she would not have received the more severe punishment of termination of her scholarship," the court opinion said, which was written by U.S. Circuit Judge Joseph Bianco, a Trump appointee.
The court dismissed her First Amendment claims on the grounds of qualified immunity though, according to the court opinion.
The Connecticut Office of the Attorney General is now reviewing the next steps for the case, according to Courthouse News Service.
After losing her UConn scholarship, Radwan went on to play soccer for Hofstra University on Long Island, where she was offered a partial athletic scholarship.
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