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Tennis Coach Says Female Player's Sex Harassment Complaint Got Him Fired

By Ben Fractenberg | October 17, 2017 8:19am
 Berkeley College tennis coach Jeffrey Menaker filed a lawsuit against his former employer, Hofstra University, after he was fired when a player accused him of sexual harassment.
Berkeley College tennis coach Jeffrey Menaker filed a lawsuit against his former employer, Hofstra University, after he was fired when a player accused him of sexual harassment.
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Berkeley College

NEW YORK CITY — A former Hofstra University women's tennis team instructor now coaching in Queens claims one of his players got him fired from the Long Island university by falsely accusing him of sexual harassment — despite admitting to sending her a lewd video, according to state and federal lawsuits.

Jeffrey Menaker was fired by Hofstra last September over the allegation but quickly landed at Berkeley College in Manhattan, where he now leads both the men’s and women’s teams.

He filed a lawsuit against his former player on June 1 admitting he sent a sexually inappropriate video to her, but accusing her of fabricating the rest of her accusations in a federal Title IX sexual harassment complaint that led to his ouster, legal documents show.

The player later filed a federal civil-rights suit against Hofstra that publicly identified Menaker. 

The coach, who filed the $100,000 defamation lawsuit under the pseudonym "A.B." and names the player only as "C.D.," enumerates the litany of complaints the student made against him — including making inappropriate comments to her in person and online, and having an "obsession" with discussing her menstrual cycle with her and other players, court documents show.

The inappropriate behavior started soon after the coach was hired at Hofstra, according to the student's original Title IX complaint addressed to the university in July 2016.

She said the coach friended her on Facebook and then sent a midnight message commenting on a photo of herself standing in front of the LOVE sculpture in Midtown on Valentine’s Day 2016. 

“Looks like you found what you were hunting for in that jacket,” he wrote, adding a winking emoji to the post, according to her complaint.

The player found the connection over social media to be "awkward and unprofessional" and his message marked the beginning of what she considered "harassing" behavior.

Menaker also had a "strange obsession" with the player's menstrual cycle, telling teammates that she “seemed sluggish and that it ‘must be because of her period’ because she ‘is supposed to be getting it around this time,'” according to the complaint.

Additionally, he told his female players during a tennis tournament that a woman player on the opposing team "winked at him" and that she was "good looking," the complaint says.

While Menaker denied making any of the comments — while accusing the student of filing the Title IX complaint as retaliation for him not increasing her financial aid — he admitted sending her a sexually suggestive YouTube video via Facebook messenger in April 2016.

The video, "Casually Explained: Is She Into You?" narrates a series of interactions between a male stick figure and a female stick figure that become more and more sexualized. 

"All of a sudden she pushes you onto her bed, dims her lights and you start having sex. Is she into you?" the video concludes. "You really can't be too sure... Maybe she's from Canada and was just being polite."

Menaker included a note to the student — who hails from Canada — saying, "[l]ast part is the best. Maybe she's from Canada! I almost fell off my chair," according to the Title IX complaint.

The student took the video as a sexual advance with the implicit message that she would lose her financial support unless she respond to his flirtation, the complaint reads.

"This video is unquestionably inappropriate for a male college coach to send to his female player. By sending ... this video, [he] was clearly insinuating that he would like to know if [she] is 'into him.'" the player's lawyer, David Schwartz, wrote in the complaint.

When the student did not reciprocate Menaker's interest, he retaliated by saying he was going to recruit players who were "better than her" and threatened to revoke her scholarship and place her “in a lower position on the team,” she charged in the initial complaint.

The coach then told other players about the complaint she filed, causing "various teammates" to "ostracize her," according to her civil-rights suit.

Menaker's actions took an “extreme toll” on the young woman, who was “constantly anxious that she will be kicked off the team and lose her scholarships simply because she is not 'into' her coach,” she charged.

Additionally, at least one official with Hofstra's athletic department received a complaint from the parent of a rival player, stating the coach "scream[ed] obscenities and verbal abuse at a female tennis player on the opposing team," according to the initial charge.

Hofstra officials held a meeting with both the men's and women's tennis teams on Sept. 7, 2016, informing them that Menaker had "decided to leave," she said in her suit against the university.

The coach was eventually hired by Berkeley College in February to lead their men’s and women’s teams, which play out of USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, according to the school’s website.

In a press release dated Feb. 1, Berkeley College praised Menaker's history at Hofstra, where they say he made “changes to the culture and a new approach to conditioning which kept players healthy throughout the season.”

The coach also released a statement that he and his new team will "set goals and work together to reach them."

"Tennis is a sport that stretches us even further because it requires a particular strength of character to succeed when the score keeps going back to zero," Menaker wrote. "I look forward to playing a role in your development, and meeting all of you shortly."

Menaker did not respond to a request for comment. His lawyer, Cheryl Davis, declined to comment on the specific allegations made by her client and said they had asked all names be redacted in the federal case and that publication of Menaker's name could benefit "one party" in the case. 

A lawyer for the student did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

The vice president of athletics at Hofstra, who was named in the initial Title IX charge as having received the complaint about Menaker's behavior toward the rival player, also declined to comment. 

"As is our practice and I’m sure that you will understand, we have no comment on pending litigation," athletics vice president Jeffrey Hathaway said. 

A spokeswoman for Berkeley said Menaker was still coaching students and that the school had just found out about the allegations. 

“We have recently become aware of the matter and given the nature of the allegations we will continue to monitor the situation,” said Angela Harrington, vice president of communications and external relations for the school.