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Former soccer player who was allegedly benched for refusing to take the knee can sue

Joe Harker

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| Last updated 

Former soccer player who was allegedly benched for refusing to take the knee can sue

Featured Image Credit: Hokie Sports

A former soccer player who claims she was benched for not taking the knee during a game has been told she will be able to go ahead with her lawsuit.

Former Virginia Tech women's soccer team player Kiersten Hening decided to sue her old coach over claims that he benched her for not joining her teammates in taking the knee.

According to court documents, the alleged incident occurred in 2020 during the soccer team's opening game of the season against the University of Virginia.

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While the rest of the team - affectionately referred to as 'the Hokies' - knelt in solidarity as a statement of unity was read over the stadium loudspeakers, Hening stayed on her feet.

The statement had declared that they were united in being 'committed to seeing each other as equals, supporting each other and treating each other with respect and dignity'.

Soccer coach Charles 'Chugger' Adair says he dropped Hening for her poor performance, not her refusal to take the knee. Credit: Hokie Sports
Soccer coach Charles 'Chugger' Adair says he dropped Hening for her poor performance, not her refusal to take the knee. Credit: Hokie Sports

Hening claims her ex-coach, Charles 'Chugger' Adair, violated her first amendment rights by berating her in front of her teammates at half time, and then again complained she was 'b****ing and moaning' during a review session the week afterwards.

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The former soccer player claims she was criticised for 'doing [her] own thing' and alleges that she was dropped from the starting lineup from the next two games and spent most of those games benched.

She then quit the team after their third game of the season, and later decided to sue her coach for breaching her right to freedom of speech and expression under the first amendment.

Adair claims he didn't know Hening hadn't taken the knee with the rest of her teammates until after the match, saying that his vocal criticism of the player was on both occasions down to her 'poor performance' during the game against the University of Virginia.

Kiersten Hening (left) resigned from the team after being benched. Credit: Virginia Tech
Kiersten Hening (left) resigned from the team after being benched. Credit: Virginia Tech
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The coach had said the case needed a summary judgement, claiming Hening had failed to establish that he had violated her first amendment rights or been able to prove that there was a link between her not taking the knee and his criticism of her.

He also claimed that two other players in the team who also didn't take the knee did not suffer a loss of playing time.

However, federal judge Thomas Cullen ruled differently as he decreed on 2 December that Hening was allowed to sue Adair and the case could go to trial.

The judge wrote that the former soccer player had been a key part of the Hokies during her freshman and sophomore years, averaging 76 and 88 minutes of playing time on the pitch respectively during those years.

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Hening played 29 minutes in her next game and just five in what proved to be her final match for the team, seeing a major drop in her playing time.

The judge said that while a jury might agree with Adair's version of events when the case goes to trial, he 'cannot reach that conclusion as a matter of law' based on the existing evidence alone.

Topics: News, US News, Black Lives Matter

Joe Harker
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