UConn must face sex bias case by soccer player punished for obscene gesture

By Daniel Wiessner

(Reuters) -A U.S. appeals court on Wednesday revived a sex discrimination claim against the University of Connecticut (UConn) by a former soccer player whose scholarship was revoked after she raised her middle finger to a television camera during a nationally broadcast championship game.

A three-judge panel of the New York City-based 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said a jury should decide whether UConn in 2014 punished Noriana Radwan more harshly, because of her gender, than male student-athletes who engaged in misconduct, as she alleges in a 2016 lawsuit.

A Connecticut federal judge had dismissed Radwan's claim that UConn violated Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits sex discrimination in federally funded education programs.

The 2nd Circuit affirmed the judge's dismissal of Radwan's separate claims that UConn violated her constitutional rights to free speech and due process by disciplining her.

UConn spokesperson Stephanie Reitz said the decision does not mean the school has been found to have discriminated against Radwan.

"The defendants are confident they will eventually prevail on that claim," she said.

Greg Tarone, a lawyer for Radwan, said he was pleased the court revived the discrimination claim and was reviewing the rest of the decision.

Radwan made the gesture while celebrating with her team after UConn defeated the University of South Florida to win a conference title. Radwan was suspended from further tournament games and ultimately lost her athletic scholarship.

The 2nd Circuit panel on Wednesday said Radwan's Title IX claim should move forward because she had shown that male scholarship athletes at UConn who engaged in misconduct faced far less serious consequences.

A male soccer player arrested for theft received a warning and a football player who kicked a dead ball into the stands during a game was not disciplined at all, the court said.

The case is Radwan v. University of Connecticut Board of Trustees, 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, No. 20-2194.

(Reporting by Daniel Wiessner in Albany, N.Y.; Editing by Matthew Lewis and Bill Berkrot)