A former Virginia Tech women’s soccer player scored a massive victory as a judge ruled that her lawsuit against her former coach may proceed earlier this month.
Kiersten Hening played for the Hokies from 2018 to 2020 until she was benched and allegedly forced off the team because she insisted that she stand during what Fox News describes as a “pregame social justice demonstration.”
The lawsuit clearly describes Hening’s recounting of events at the game that led to her benching, as shared by the Daily Mail.
“All starters, including Hening, were standing on the field at the time, while other starters knelt during the unity statement to mirror [former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s 2016 protests] and express support for [the Black Lives Matter movement], Hening remained standing.”
According to Hening, after this refusal to kneel, coach Charles “Chugger” Adair “verbally attacked” her and said the player needed to stop “b*itching and moaning.”
According to Fox News, the lawsuit explains that his tirade went far beyond what is considered a normal player-coach discussion.
“Coach Adair’s tirade was so extreme, so personally directed at Hening, and so disconnected from the game itself, that her teammates approached her afterward to comfort her and express their shock.”
In his ruling, federal Judge Thomas Cullen explained the final days leading to Hening’s exit from the team.
“Hening, who had been a major on-field contributor for two years prior to the 2020 season, also asserts that Adair removed her from the starting lineup for the next two games and drastically reduced her playing time in those games because she had engaged in this protected First Amendment activity. As a result, Hening resigned from the team after the third game of the season.”
Cullen also laid out the drastic drop in playing time that Hening suffered after standing for the team’s “Unity statement.”
“As a freshman, Hening averaged 76 minutes of playing time; as a sophomore, nearly 88,” Cullen wrote. “But during the Clemson game [the next game after the kneeling incident], Hening only played 29 minutes, and, at the UNC game, just 5.”
Cullen’s also indicated that there may be a strong case for Hening as her case heads to trial.
“While the U.S. 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 institution of higher education.”
While it is clear that players and coaches at the highest levels of sports are heavily encouraging players to take part in these social justice displays, there have been very few players who have been willing to fight back as hard as Kiersten Hening.
Featured image credit: Kiersten Hening Facebook