In light of a federal judge’s ruling, a former Virginia Tech women’s soccer player can now go ahead with her lawsuit against her former coach, who she is accusing of punishing her for refusing to kneel during a social justice protest.
Kiersten Hening…sued coach Charles "Chugger" Aidair in 2021 on First Amendment grounds, which federal Judge Thomas Cullen announced on Dec. 2 can proceed to trial.https://t.co/mlCQyhU00w
— ArkansasDiver (@ArkansasDiver) December 12, 2022
Western District of Virginia judge Thomas Cullen agreed that Coach Charles “Chugger” Adair may have violated Kiersten Hening’s First Amendment right after she refused to kneel before the team’s season-opening game against the Virginia Cavaliers during the height of the Black Lives Matter movement.
In his Dec. 2 ruling, Cullen said that the court will allow Hening’s lawsuit that claims Adair retaliated against her for her political beliefs to go to trial.
Hening was a starting defender and midfielder for the Hokies from 2018 till 2020, when she quit the team. She had a good run until she refused to participate in the Sept. 12, 2020 pregame social justice demonstration.
Hening clarified in the lawsuit that she believes Black lives matter and supports social justice. She, however, said she does not support the organization BLM because of its “tactics and core tenets of its mission statement, including defunding the police.”
However, her ex-coach allegedly did not understand that, as he reportedly attacked her at halftime of the game and berated her for her stance. Per the lawsuit, Adair singled her out for some verbal attack and even went as far as pointing a finger in her face. He also reportedly verbally derided her as selfish and individualistic.
Since that day, she was met with a “campaign of abuse and retaliation,” the lawsuit filed on Mar. 3, 2021, alleged. According to Hening, Adair not only benched her – but he also “subjected her to repeated verbal abuse and forced her off the team.”
Adair treated her so badly on the field in the next two games, she argued, that she felt compelled to resign from the team after the third game of the season.
“As a result of her coach’s actions, Hening can no longer play the game she loves, despite having two more years of NCAA eligibility,” the lawsuit continued, asking the court to vindicate Hening’s constitutional rights and award her equitable relief.
In addition to financial compensation, damages, and attorney fees, Hening is asking that Adair be ordered to undergo First Amendment training.
While Adair argued that Hening’s reduced play time was based on her poor performance during the UVA game, Cullen did not have it, as he stated that the evidence presented before him backed up Hening’s claim more.
The judge had noted in his ruling that Adair slashed Hening’s playing time after the kneeling incident. He wrote that Hening only played 29 minutes in the next game after the incident, even though she averaged 76 minutes of playing time as a freshman and nearly 88 minutes of playing time as a sophomore. She had just 5 minutes of playing time at her last game.