A former women’s soccer player at a Virginia university is suing the team’s coach for allegedly forcing her out because she refused to kneel at a game.
Kiersten Hening claims in a federal lawsuit that her First and Fourteenth Amendment rights were violated after Virginia Tech women’s soccer coach Charles “Chugger” Adair allegedly disagreed with her political beliefs.
Athletes taking the knee before sporting events to protest the treatment of black Americans became a national issue in 2016 when former NFL player Colin Kaepernick refused to stand during the national anthem.
The act has since been elevated to a global anti-racism gesture in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement after last year’s widespread protests following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
According to the lawsuit filed March 3, Hening’s grievance stems from a game last fall when she remained standing while her teammates kneeled, WSET reported.
The suit alleges that at halftime during the Sept. 12 game coach Adair “berated Hening for her stance. He singled her out and verbally attacked her, pointing a finger directly in her face. He denounced Hening for ‘bitching and moaning,’ for being selfish and individualistic, and for ‘doing her own thing.’”
“Because she refused to kneel,” the document continues, “he benched her, subjected her to repeated verbal abuse, and forced her off the team.”
Hening says she was singled out again in the team’s next game on Sept. 17, which led to her resignation on Sept. 20 after being dropped for the following match.
“Coach Adair’s campaign of abuse and retaliation made conditions for Hening so intolerable that she felt compelled to resign. Hening did not want to leave,” the suit states.
Hening says she is an advocate for social justice and believes black lives matter, but disagrees with the Black Lives Matter organization, which she claims is supported by the coach and several other players.
The court document specifically notes her opposition to BLM’s stance on defunding the police and disrupting “the Western-prescribed nuclear family.” The latter aim was scrubbed from the movement’s website last September following criticism.
The suit calls for an injunction allowing Hening to rejoin the team and an order for Adair to undergo First Amendment training, as well as compensatory damages.