A college student who claims she was kicked off the University of Cincinnati women’s volleyball team after being singled out for Instagram images her coach deemed “too sexy” is taking legal action.
According to legal documents obtained by Courthouse News Service, which was the first to break the story, Shalom Ifeanyi filed a federal lawsuit in the U.S. District Court Tuesday. The lawsuit names former coach Molly Alvey as well as executive senior associate athletic director Maggie McKinley and the University of Cincinnati as defendants.
Ifeanyi, who is black, cites racial discrimination and sexual discrimination and harassment as motives behind her dismissal from the team in late June 2017. Her lawsuit alleges that Alvey “began harassing and shaming” her about images posted to her social media accounts, referring to them as “too sexy.”
The 19-year-old, pictured bottom right in the below image, maintains that she was fully clothed in the images, and claims that her teammates were not subjected to similar lectures.
A post shared by Cincinnati Volleyball (@gobearcatsvb)
“Upon information and belief, no such requests were made to other members of the women’s volleyball team who were of slighter build and lighter complexion despite photographs picturing them in outfits, including but not limited to, two-piece swimsuits,” the lawsuit, prepared by Ohio firm Rittgers & Rittgers, states.
Ifeanyi claims she heeded the warnings and removed the images in question, posting more conservative headshots instead. But in June 2017, she was allegedly confronted by Alvey about her Instagram profile picture.
“‘When the football players see this, what do you think they see?’” the coach allegedly told her. “‘They see your breasts. It’s seductive.’”
Ifeanyi deleted the photo but was soon ordered by text to remove additional photos. She finally objected, citing a frustration with the “body shaming,” and replied to Alvey that she would not comply.
Approximately a week later, in a meeting overseen by McKinley, Alvey informed Ifeanyi that she would need to leave the team, as they had “different philosophies.”
Leaving the team prevents Ifeanyi, who suffered from a knee injury for much of the season but maintains that she remained committed to her rehab and workouts, from renewing her athletic scholarship past the 2017-2018 academic year.
The lawsuit claims that NCAA transfer rules also prohibit her from playing competitive volleyball for the 2018-2019 season, which means pursuing another athletic scholarship is off the table. Ifeanyi has since enrolled in a different university and has “lost earning capacity.”
The student filed a Title IX complaint about her dismissal nine months ago, but claims that an investigation was not completed, nor was she given an opportunity to appeal the decision.
Citing Ifeanyi’s “pain and suffering in the form of humiliation, frustration, aggravation, anger, and depression,” the lawsuit is seeking “compensatory damages, punitive damages, reasonable attorney fees, costs, and all other relief to which she may be entitled.”
Ryan Koslen, a spokesman for the University of Cincinnati’s athletic department, told Yahoo Lifestyle that he was “unable to comment on the allegations.” Ifeanyi has not yet responded to a request for comment.
“We feel that the lawsuit speaks for itself and do not have any additional comments at this time,” her lawyer, Ryan McGraw, said.
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