Raising a middle finger to a television camera can have severe consequences, at least for one former UConn player.
Noriana Radwan played for the Huskies’ women’s soccer team in 2014, and flipped off an ESPNU camera while celebrating their 3-2 victory on penalty kicks over the University of South Florida in the AAC championship game. She was then suspended for the NCAA tournament that year and was later stripped of her scholarship for what coach Len Tsantiris called “serious misconduct.”
Radwan has since moved on to play at Hofstra in the Colonial Athletic Association on partial scholarship, and she’s now suing UConn over how they treated her. She said at a press conference Monday that she wrote a letter of apology to UConn officials after the incident, but didn’t have that acknowledged. She apologized further 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.”
While Radwan is seeking financial damages, her lawyer said her real goal is to prevent this from happening again, citing inequalities in how the school treated Radwan and how it’s treated football players who have gotten into trouble:
“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.
Tarone would certainly seem to have a point that plenty of male NCAA athletes, at UConn and elsewhere, have not had their scholarships stripped for offenses as mild as an obscene gesture. Based on what’s come out so far, Radwan may have a case. At the very least, if the flipped-off camera was the sole reason for her dismissal, that should raise questions about if male and female athletes who get into trouble are treated equally by UConn and other universities. However, it’s worth pointing out that this is just one side of the story; UConn representatives declined to comment to the Associated Press. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.