Judge Rules Lawsuit For Benched Player Can Move Forward

Is there hope for the American justice system after all? A federal judge just okayed a lawsuit that a former Virginia Tech women’s soccer player filed against her ex-coach after he allegedly punished and harassed her over her refusal to kneel for social justice protests put on by their team.

The lawsuit, filed in the Roanoke Division of the United States District Court’s Western District of Virginia on March 3, 2021 – claims the former soccer coach of Kiersten Hening “benched her, subjected her to repeated verbal abuse, and forced her off the team.”

Hening was an active player on the team for quite some time. She played in all 22 games her freshman year, starting in 19 of them. She then started in 18 matches in her sophomore year, appearing in all 19. She also had the second most minutes played among the players on the field; all of this information comes from the Hokies women’s soccer website.

According to Hening, her relationship with her coach took a turn for the worse after she decided to not participate in a social justice demonstration. She reportedly refused to kneel during the team’s season-opening match against the Virginia Cavaliers on Sept. 12, 2020.

As the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported, “While her teammates knelt during the pregame reading of the Atlantic Coast Conference’s unity pledge — a show of support for the social justice movement and Black Lives Matter — Hening and one other unidentified player remained standing.”

Hening said Hokies head coach Charles “Chugger” Adair began a “campaign of abuse and retaliation” after she would not join in a pregame social justice demonstration.

“He singled her out and verbally attacked her, pointing a finger directly in her face,” claimed the lawsuit. “He denounced Hening for ‘bitching and moaning,’ for being selfish and individualistic, and for ‘doing her own thing.’”

Adair’s action violated the First Amendment rights of Hening, according to the lawsuit.

The case was ruled on Dec. 2 as qualifying for trial by Federal Judge Thomas Cullen, reported Fox News.

“As a freshman, Hening averaged 76 minutes of playing time; as a sophomore, nearly 88,” wrote Cullen. “But during the Clemson game [the next game after the kneeling incident], Hening only played 29 minutes, and, at the UNC game, just 5.”

“Ultimately, Adair may convince a jury that this coaching decision was based solely on Hening’s poor play during the UVA game, but the court, viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to Hening, cannot reach that conclusion as a matter of law,” stated the federal judge.

The lawsuit said that Hening “supports social justice and believes that black lives matter,” but “does not support BLM the organization,” due to its “tactics and core tenets of its mission statement, including defunding the police.”