She Was Punished for Refusing to Kneel, Won $100K in Court

By John Friend

A former standout Virginia Tech women’s soccer player who alleged the team’s head coach persecuted and targeted her for refusing to kneel in support of Black Lives Matter (BLM) in the fall 2020 season will receive a $100,000 settlement as part of an agreement to dismiss the federal lawsuit she filed against the coach.

Kiersten Hening filed a federal lawsuit against Virginia Tech head women’s soccer coach Charles “Chugger” Adair, claiming he removed her as a starter on the team and reduced her playing time in an attempt to force her to quit the team due to her criticisms of the BLM movement. Hening was a junior during the 2020 season and had been one of the team’s top defenders her previous two seasons as a freshman and sophomore where she started the vast majority of games.

The suit argued that Hening was a “talented defender” who had the most minutes played on the entire team as the 2020 season started. She was even selected to represent the team to media outlets before the season began.

On Sept. 1, 2020, shortly before the start of the season and in the immediate aftermath of the BLM uprising that began with the death of George Floyd earlier that year, an advisory committee of student athlete representatives discussed ways of supporting the BLM movement, including by wearing BLM-themed face masks, wrist and armbands, and warmup attire.

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In the lawsuit, Hening alleges that most of the women’s soccer team players supported the initiative, including head coach Adair. Adair also suggested replacing “Hokies,” the name of Virginia Tech athletic teams, emblazoned on the back of the soccer team’s uniforms with the names of alleged victims of police misconduct and wanted players to kneel before games in a display of solidarity with the BLM movement.

Hening did not support these initiatives, expressing her reservations with other players on the team through text messages, which ultimately came to the attention of Adair. On Sept. 3, two days after the advisory committee’s recommendations, Hening’s teammates insisted coach Adair address “the fact that some of his players were ‘racist’ and did not support BLM,” according to the lawsuit.

Hening refused to kneel with the rest of the team’s starters during the opening match of the season on Sept. 12, 2020, resulting in her being the subject of a tirade launched against her by Adair. That began a “campaign of abuse” by the head coach, coupled with reduced playing time, that ultimately resulted in Hening’s decision to leave the program on Sept. 20, 2020.

Hening insisted in the lawsuit that she supports social justice, but “does not support BLM the organization,” disagreeing with the “tactics and core tenets of its mission statement, including defunding the police.”

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