Virginia Tech Soccer Player Sues Coach For Allegedly Punishing Her Refusal To Kneel In Protest

Former Virginia Tech women’s soccer player Kiersten Hening has been granted permission to sue her ex-coach for alleged punishment for her refusal to kneel during a social justice demonstration.

From 2018 to 2020, Hening was the Hokies’ starting defender and midfielder. In her freshman and sophomore years, she started 38 games and logged the second-highest number of minutes played among field players. Hening, however, claims that the relationship with her coach changed after she declined to participate in a demonstration organized by a social justice organization.

Before the team’s season opener against the Virginia Cavaliers on Sept. 12 2020, Hening refused to kneel. The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported that when the Atlantic coast conference read its unity pledge during pregame, Hening and one other unidentified player remained standing, despite a plan for the team to kneel in support of Black Lives Matter. Her refusal to participate in the pregame social justice demonstration allegedly led Hokies coach Charles Adair to launch a campaign of abuse and retaliation.

On March 3, 2021, Hening filed a lawsuit alleging Adair benched her, verbally abused her, and forced her off the team. The lawsuit claims, “He singled her out and verbally attacked her, pointing a finger directly in her face. He denounced Hening for ‘b— and moaning,’ for being selfish and individualistic, and for ‘doing her own thing.'” The lawsuit alleges that Adair’s actions violated the player’s First Amendment rights.

The case is being prosecuted by U.S. District Judge Thomas Cullen, who determined Dec. 2 that the case may go to trial. Cullen noted that Adair decreased her playing time due to the dispute. “As a freshman, Hening averaged 76 minutes of playing time; as a sophomore, nearly 88,” Cullen wrote in the ruling. “But during the Clemson game [the next game after the kneeling incident], Hening only played 29 minutes and, at the UNC game, just 5.”

The lawsuit stated that Hening “supports social justice and believes that black lives matter.” She “does not support BLM the organization” because of its “tactics and core tenets of its mission statement, including defunding the police.” After this case was filed, Black Lives Matter was exposed for misuse of funds donated by the public.

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