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Soccer player who flipped off camera sues U-Conn. for stripping her of scholarship

(AP Photo/Scott Heppell)

A former soccer player at the University of Connecticut is suing the school for taking away her scholarship after she flashed an obscene gesture to a television camera.

Noriana Radwan, who now plays at Hofstra, alleges that the punishment for flipping off the ESPNU camera, a gesture she made as she and her Huskies teammates beat the University of South Florida on penalty kicks in the 2014 American Athletic Conference championship game, was excessive. (Here’s an image of the moment.)

“Two years ago, I profusely apologized in writing to the athletic director and my coaches and face-to-face with my fellow teammates,” she said in a prepared statement that she read during a news conference at the office of her lawyer in New York. “None of the administrators or coaches ever responded or even acknowledged my correspondence.”

“I did not intend to offend anyone,” she said, declining to take questions. “I was making a celebratory statement that was seriously misinterpreted and misunderstood.”

Radwan, in a draft of her federal lawsuit obtained by the Associated Press, alleges that she was stripped of her scholarship midway through the school year without due process for what the coach described as “serious misconduct.”

Radwan “was never given the opportunity to defend herself, or to appeal the decision in any way,” her attorney, Greg Tarone, told the AP. “They took away her dream and they took away her voice.”

Radwan was suspended from the 2014 NCAA tournament and apologized to the conference, USF and TV viewers in a statement at the time. Tarone contends that Radwan’s misdeed does not rise to the level of “serious misconduct” and that male athletes are punished less severely for more serious offenses. Brian Cespedes, an offensive lineman for the football team, was not suspended after being arrested Dec. 10 on misdemeanor assault charges stemming from a September incident that was not public at the time, Tarone pointed out.

“She’s a female student athlete who was treated differently than male athletes at the institution,” Tarone told the Hartford Courant.

U-Conn. has not commented because, spokeswoman Stephanie Reitz told the AP, it has not seen the lawsuit. Radwan, a midfielder, is on a partial athletic scholarship at Hofstra, where she had six goals and an assist in 17 games.

When the incident occurred, Jeff Jacobs, a Courant sports columnist, pointed out that college students do regrettable things all the time and that giving the middle finger dates back to ancient times. Like most people, he laughed off the incident until he talked to Central Connecticut Athletic Director Paul Schlinkman. Most sports administrators and coaches will tell you that view playing sports as a privilege, not a right.

“It’s so visible, it’s such a derogatory, unsportsmanlike act that regardless of what incites it or not — whether it’s the heat of the moment — you just have to refrain from doing it,” Schlickmann said. “Like it or not, there are things that go with the territory, you can’t do that. You just can’t.”