Nineteen-year-old former student-athlete Shalom Ifeanyi filed suit Tuesday in the U.S. District Court claiming discrimination and harassment after she was allegedly dismissed from the volleyball team at the University of Cincinnati for posting images to social media that her coach deemed “too sexy.”
Ifeanyi was removed from the team in June 2017 during a meeting with UC women’s volleyball head coach Molly Alvey and executive senior associate athletic director Maggie McKinley wherein she was told by Alvey that she needed to leave the team due to a difference in philosophy.
According to Ifeanyi, Alvey “began harassing and shaming” her over images posted to Instagram, insisting the images be removed. Ifeanyi claims that she complied with initial requests, replacing the implicated posts with more conservative headshots, despite the fact that she was fully clothed in all of the pictures.
Finally, Alvey confronted Ifeanyi about her Instagram profile picture, allegedly asking, “When the football players see this, what do you think they see? They see your breasts. It’s seductive.”
Ifeanyi claims other teammates posted images that were not scrutinized in the same manner, and those players were never asked to remove pictures. She believes the coach’s objections to have been racially motivated.
Ifeanyi’s lawsuit, as reported by Yahoo! News, reads: “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.”
Ifeanyi originally filed a Title IX complaint with the University of Cincinnati nine months ago but claims that the investigation was never completed and that she was not given the opportunity to appeal its decision.
Ifeanyi is suing for damages due to lost earning capacity, claiming the dismissal prevents her from renewing her athletic scholarship and that NCAA rules prohibit her from playing competitive volleyball in the coming season, eliminating her ability to pursue a scholarship elsewhere.
The suit names Alvey, McKinley and the university as defendants and seeks “compensatory damages, punitive damages, reasonable attorney fees, costs, and all other relief to which she may be entitled,” as a result of the lost earning capacity, as well as unnecessary “pain and suffering in the form of humiliation, frustration, aggravation, anger, and depression.”