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Tipsheet

Judge Rules Ex-College Soccer Player Allegedly Benched for Refusing to Kneel Can Proceed With Lawsuit

AP Photo/Markus Schreiber

A former soccer player for Virginia Tech can continue a lawsuit against her former coach who allegedly benched her for refusing to kneel during a pregame social justice demonstration during the Black Lives Matter movement in 2020, a judge ruled this month. 

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Kiersten Hening was a midfielder/defender for Virginia Tech’s women’s soccer team from 2018 to 2020 and filed a lawsuit against her coach, Charles “Chuggar” Adair in 2021. On Dec. 2, District Court Judge Thomas Cullen ruled that the lawsuit can move forward, as Adair may have violated Hening’s First Amendment rights (via Fox News):

Hening alleged that Adair was not a fan of her political views and that she often differed from her teammates on social justice issues during the height of the Black Lives Matter movement in 2020.

Hening further explained in the lawsuit that while she "supports social justice and believes that black lives matter," she "does not support BLM the organization," citing its "tactics and core tenets of its mission statement, including defunding the police."

After Hening declined to kneel during a reading of a "unity statement" before a game against UVA on Sept. 12, 2020, she said Adair "verbally attacked her" at halftime, claiming she was "b--tching and moaning" while jabbing a finger in her face.

The coach continued to berate Hening until he benched her and ultimately made things so intolerable that she felt compelled to quit the team, according to the suit.

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Judge Cullen reportedly noted that Hening’s time on the field dropped significantly after the incident in Sept. 2020 and she was removed from the starting lineup.

“Ultimately, Adair may convince a jury that this coaching decision was based solely on Hening’s poor play during the UVA game, but the court, viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to Hening, cannot reach that conclusion as a matter of law,” Cullen said in his ruling.

“While the US Supreme Court and the Fourth Circuit may not have addressed the novel factual circumstances presented here — i.e. a college coach allegedly retaliating against a player for refusing to kneel with her coaches and teammates in support of perceived unity and social justice — the core Constitutional principle is both clearly established and fundamental to a free society, and especially to an institute of higher education.”

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