A judge has finally approved a lawsuit filed by former Virginia Tech soccer player Kiersten Hening, who claims that she was benched for refusing to kneel during the national anthem.
— Fox News (@FoxNews) December 11, 2022
Hening filed the lawsuit against the school and her former coach, Charles Aidair, last year — but the school filed a motion to have the lawsuit thrown out. The former Hokies midfielder argued in the suit that her First Amendment rights had been violated after the coach benched her for refusing to join the team in kneeling for the national anthem in 2020 as a “unity statement.”
On December 2, U.S. District Judge Thomas T. Cullen ruled that Hening’s lawsuit against Aidair and Virginia Tech could move forward, according to Fox News.
The former Virginia Tech soccer player claims that she had been benched after frequently disagreeing with the coach and the team’s support of the Black Lives Matter movement. Hening also noted that Aidair had verbally attacked her repeatedly when her political views had clashed with his, and ultimately refused to even let her play.
“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,” the judge wrote in his ruling.
“As a freshman, Hening averaged 76 minutes of playing time; as a sophomore, nearly 88,” Cullen added. “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, who was appointed by former President Donald Trump, stated that the facts in this case tend to show on the surface that the coach had retaliated against Hening based on her personal political views, and his actions had nothing to do with sports.
The judge also noted that Hening’s right to her own political opinions is “the core constitutional principle… both clearly established and fundamental to a free society, and especially to an institution of higher education.”