A former Virginia Tech women’s soccer player has filed a federal lawsuit against coach Charles "Chugger" Adair, alleging that she was subjected to a “campaign of abuse and retaliation” after refusing to join her teammates when they kneeled before games.
As reported by The Roanoke Times, Kiersten Hening ultimately left the program.
“Hening’s stance was costly — too costly,” reads the lawsuit filed March 3. “Her coach dislikes Hening’s political views. Because she refused to kneel, he benched her, subjected her to repeated verbal abuse, and forced her off the team.”
Adair, the Hokie's all-time winningest coach at 126-62-20, just completing his 10th season at Virginia Tech. He is being represented by attorneys retained by the university, which is not named as a defendant in the suit.
Hening, 21, an in-state prospect who walked onto the Virginia Tech team in 2018, started as a freshman and sophomore. She was in the team’s starting lineup for its opening match of the 2020 season, against rival Virginia, when 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, according to the lawsuit.
Hening’s suit claims she “supports social justice and believes black lives matter,” but, “does not support the BLM organization.”
The lawsuit alleges that, during halftime of the Virginia 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.’ ”
According to the lawsuit, Adair targeted Hening instead of the other player who remained standing because that player was on scholarship and her parents had a previous phone conversation with Adair and had “warned him not to retaliate against their daughter for opposing (Black Lives Matter).”
After being held out of the starting lineup for the Hokies' next two games, Hening, who started 37 game previously, left the program.
“Coach Adair’s campaign of abuse and retaliation made conditions for Hening so intolerable that she felt compelled to resign," the lawsuit reads, as reported by the Times. "Hening did not want to leave.”
According to the lawsuit, Adair was strongly supportive of the Atlantic Coast Conference's equality pledge and even suggested having players wear the names of victims of alleged police misconduct on their jerseys. The lawsuit claims Adair was aware of Hening’s political views prior to the start of the 2020 season, when he and a group of players were shown screenshots of private text messages she had sent to teammates.
The suit seeks a ruling ordering Adair to “undergo First Amendment training,” and to have Hening reinstated on the team, in addition to unspecified monetary awards for compensatory, punitive and nominal damages and costs associated with her case.