Kiersten Hening, a former Virginia Tech University soccer player, has filed suit against her ex-coach for allegedly benching her because she wouldn’t take a knee during a pre-game reading of an Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) unity pledge.
Hening filed the federal lawsuit against Charles “Chugger” Adair on March 3, claiming that “because she refused to kneel, he benched her, subjected her to repeated verbal abuse, and forced her off the team.”
The lawsuit claims Adair’s actions violated Hening’s First and Fourteenth Amendment rights. Hening, a junior at Virginia Tech, was a starter on defense during her freshman and sophomore years before leaving the team.
The lawsuit says Adair supported proposals by the university to have its athletes wear Black Lives Matter masks, wristbands, and armbands, but Henning dissented. “While Hening supports social justice and believes that black lives matter, she does not support the BLM organization. She disagrees with its tactics and core tenets of its mission statement, including defunding the police and eliminating the nuclear family,” the lawsuit alleges, WSLS News 10 of Roanoke, Virginia, reported.
Before the team’s first game of the season on Sept. 12, 2020, the team’s starters took a knee while a unity statement issued by the ACC was read. But Hening remained standing. The pledge says: “We, the ACC, are committed to seeing each other as equals, supporting each other, and treating each other with respect and dignity at all times, recognizing that our differences don’t divide us, but they make us stronger.”
“According to the lawsuit, Adair was strongly supportive of the ACC’s equality pledge and even suggested having players wear the names of victims of alleged police misconduct on their jerseys, and that his direct supervisor, senior associate athletic director Reyna Gilbert-Lowery, ‘is a vocal supporter of [Black Lives Matter].’” The Richmond-Times Dispatch reported.
Hening’s lawsuit says during halftime of the game, Adair “singled her out and verbally attacked her, pointed a finger directly in her face.” The lawsuit also says another Hokie who did not kneel “was not yelled at because that player was on scholarship and her parents had called and told Adair to not retaliate against their daughter for opposing Black Lives Matter,” WSLS reported.
“The following game, Hening was removed from the starting lineup and played a position she had previously never played before in college. Then, during a film session after the game, Adair again yelled at Hening, according to the lawsuit,” said the station. Hening did not start the next game either and only played 5 minutes of the 90-minute game.
“Coach Adair’s campaign of abuse and retaliation made conditions for Hening so intolerable that she felt compelled to resign. Hening did not want to leave; but, given no real choice, she resigned on September 20,” the lawsuit says.
According to WSLS, Hening is seeking:
- A judgment that Adair violated both her First and Fourteenth Amendment rights
- The ability to rejoin the team without any adverse action against her for exercising her First Amendment rights
- An order for Adair to undergo First Amendment training
- Compensatory, punitive and nominal damages