CINCINNATI (CN) – More than 20,000 people have signed an online petition calling for the University of Cincinnati to fire the head coach of the women’s volleyball team after a student-athlete filed a lawsuit accusing the coach of dropping her because of headshots she posted on Instagram.
As of Thursday afternoon, the petition on the Care2 website had been signed over 23,000 times, well on its way to its 25,000-signature goal.
The petition was spurred by student-athlete Shalom Ifeanyi’s race and sex discrimination lawsuit, first reported by Courthouse News last Tuesday. The Associated Press, Fox News, Yahoo, the Daily Mail and other outlets covered the story soon after.
The petition asks people to add their signature if they want Molly Alvey fired from her position as head coach of the Cincinnati Bearcats women’s volleyball team.
“Coaching should never involve body shaming or policing of social media posts. Ifeanyi has every right to self-expression on social media. Alvey’s targeted bullying and shaming of this student has made it clear that she is not fit to coach young women,” the petition states.
Neither Alvey nor the University of Cincinnati immediately responded Thursday afternoon to requests for comment on the petition.
In her federal lawsuit, Ifeanyi claimed Alvey had called her into her office and told her to remove Instagram images that the coach deemed “too sexy” but did not make the same request to her lighter-skinned teammates who had posted pictures in two-piece swimsuits.
Ifeanyi said she complied with Alvey’s initial request but alleged that, in June 2017, Alvey texted her the day after her 19th birthday and demanded that she remove more headshots from her Instagram account.
Ifeanyi attached the headshots and Alvey’s text message to her lawsuit. The images show her wearing a black tank top. A text message from “Coach Molly” states: “Shalom, please remove these pictures today.”
This time, Ifeanyi resisted, according to the complaint.
“In these pictures I just got my hair done and I really liked my makeup and thought the pictures were pretty,” Ifeanyi wrote. “My teammates have swimsuit photos that are more revealing than me in a tank top.”
Ifeanyi said she felt she was “being sexualized.”
“I can’t help the way I’m built. I am not trying to argue, I just feel like I have to be flat chested or real skinny in order to post,” she wrote in a text message attached to the lawsuit.
Ifeanyi claimed she was called into the office a week later and Alvey told her that she was dropping her from the team.
“The only explanation offered by Alvey was that she and plaintiff ‘had different philosophies,’” the lawsuit states. “When plaintiff asked if her dismissal had anything to do with her text response the prior week, Alvey indicated that she read it, but would not discuss it further and offered no other reason for this devastating action.”
Because of NCAA transfer rules and regulations, Ifeanyi said she cannot play competitive volleyball for the 2018-2019 season, meaning she will have to go without an athletic scholarship to help pay for her tuition and education costs.
Last year, Alvey was named head coach of the USA Collegiate Team after she led the Cincinnati Bearcats to the NCAA tournament in the 2016 season.