A female Virginia Tech soccer player who was benched and harassed after refusing to kneel in support of Black Lives Matter was awarded a lawsuit settlement of $100,000.
The settlement comes as a federal court last month ruled 22-year-old Kiersten Hening’s constitutional rights were trampled by Virginia Tech women’s soccer coach Charles “Chugger” Adair, who allegedly singled her out for harassment after she refused to kneel during a “unity statement” at a Sept. 2020 game.
Attorney Jonathan Turley reported on the circumstances in Hening’s lawsuit, Hening v. Adair, last month, commenting he believed she had a “winning case”:
The lawsuit alleges that when Hening refused to kneel and support Black Lives Matter, she was benched, harassed and ultimately forced off the team. If the allegations are true, she could have not only a winning case but a case that could set important precedent for the freedom of speech. Adair is being sued in both his individual and his official capacity.
Adair implemented changes after a mandated diversity training order from the Atlantic Coast Conference. We have seen such mandated training programs in colleges and corporations — programs that can raise concerns over compelled speech and viewpoint discrimination. As a state school, Virginia Tech is subject to the limitations imposed on the government under the First Amendment.
Hening alleges that Adair wanted the student to emulate former NFL player Colin Kaepernick in kneeling before games and wanted to replace the name “Hokies” on the back of their jerseys with the names of people killed by police.
During meetings, Hening objected to the changes as compelled speech and said that she disagreed with aspects of the BLM movement. She was then allegedly labeled a “racist” by some on the team.
The complaint states that only two students objected to kneeling but the other student was on a scholarship and her parents called Adair to warn him not to harass their daughter for her political views. Instead, Hening alleges, Adair singled her out as well as speaking negatively about some people who believe “all lives matter.” She says that her refusal to kneel led to her benching and eventual removal from the team. It also allegedly resulted in a torrent of abuse verbally and on social media.
The New York Post reports federal Judge Thomas Cullen denied a motion by Adair to dismiss the case after he agreed Hening’s on-field time was reduced after she refused to kneel.
“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,” the judge wrote.
Following the settlement, Hening’s lawyer Adam Mortara took to Twitter to celebrate the win, saying, “I am very proud to represent Kiersten Hening in her successful suit against Coach ‘Chugger’ Adair of Virginia Tech. Adair benched my client after she refused to kneel for a BLM unity statement and now he is paying her over $100,000 in a settlement.”
Meanwhile, despite being ordered to pay over $100,000, Coach Chugger tweeted he was “pleased the case against me has been closed and I am free to move forward clear of any wrong doing.”
“It’s unfortunate, but this ordeal was about a disappointment and disagreement about playing time. Today, we have clarity that this case lacked any standing, and without evidence, the truth has prevailed,” the coach commented.
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