Ex-Virginia Tech soccer player claims in lawsuit that coach 'berated' her for refusing to kneel before game

Nick Bromberg
·3-min read

Former Virginia Tech soccer player Kiersten Hening has filed a lawsuit against the team’s coach because she claims she was "berated" and benched by her coach for refusing to take a knee before a game.

Hening claims in the 11-page lawsuit against Virginia Tech and coach Charles Adair that Adair was upset at her for not kneeling before a game against Virginia on Sept. 12. Hening did not play in the team's next game five days later and then quit the team eight days after the Virginia game. 

The suit was filed in federal court on March 3. Virginia Tech has said it will not comment on it.

'Politically motivated retaliation'

A walk-on and significant player for the team, Hening said that she was one of two players who didn’t kneel before the Virginia game as the Atlantic Coast Conference’s unity statement was read over the public address speaker. In the suit, Hening says she “supports social justice and believes that black lives matter, she does not support BLM the organization. She disagrees with its tactics and core tenets of its mission statement, including defunding the police and eliminating the nuclear family.”

She claims in the suit that she expressed her views against the Black Lives Matter organization and other social justice measures that the team wanted to do in private messages to other teammates. Those messages, Hening claims, were ultimately shared with Adair.

Hening says that Adair singled her out at halftime of the game and told her she was “b****** and moaning.”

She claims that Adair continued to “berate” her at practice the following week and believed that it was “a continuation of the politically motivated retaliation” that started at halftime.

The ACC's unity statement has been read before all conference games in the 2020-21 school year. The short statement does not mention the Black Lives Matter organization or even say those three words. It says that “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.”

Suit demands reinstatement to team

Hening says in the suit that she was benched for a Sept. 17 loss against Clemson and then only played five minutes against North Carolina. She quit the team three days after the Clemson game because of the alleged continued retaliation and said that while she did not want to quit the team, she was "given no real choice" because of the "intolerable" conditions.

The suit asks for Hening's reinstatement to the team because Adair violated her First Amendment rights to not participate in the team's demonstration because his actions "effectively forced" her off the team. It also asks that Adair take First Amendment training and that the coach "take no adverse action" against her upon that reinstatement.

Adair has been the team's coach since 2010 and was an associate head coach for five seasons before he was promoted to head coach. 

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