Former James River soccer star suing Virginia Tech head coach

Former James River soccer star suing Virginia Tech head coach
James River grad Kiersten Hening looks to maneuver around an opponent during the 2019 season. (Source: Virginia Tech Athletics)

RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - James River product Kiersten Hening has filed a federal lawsuit against Virginia Tech head women’s soccer coach Chugger Adair, alleging that she was forced off the team after refusing to kneel with her teammates prior to a match this past fall.

In the lawsuit, filed March 3 in the Roanoke Division of the United States District Court’s Western District of Virginia, Hening alleges that, because she refused to kneel, Adair “benched her, subjected her to repeated verbal abuse, and forced her off the team.”

The suit claims that refusing to kneel is protected under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Adair has been the Hokies’ head women’s soccer coach since 2010 and is the sole defendant listed on the lawsuit.

The suit states that Hening’s refusal to kneel came during the reading of an ACC unity statement read prior to Virginia Tech’s September 12 game at Virginia. The former Rapid remained standing while most other starters knelt during the reading of the statement. According to the court-filed document, one other starter stood as well, but that player’s parents informed Adair of her intention prior to the game and warned against retaliation. That player was also on scholarship.

“At the next opportunity- halftime of the Virginia game-Coach Adair berated Hening for her stance,” the lawsuit reads. “He singled her out and directly attacked her, pointing a finger in her face. He denounced Hening for ‘bitching and moaning,’ for being selfish and individualistic, and for ‘doing her own thing.’”

The document goes on to detail a film session in which the verbal abuse continued and cited the following two matches in which Hening was removed from the starting line-up. During those games, she saw her minutes decrease. She departed the team on September 20.

The James River grad played all 90 minutes during the season opener at Virginia, 29 minutes during the next game against Clemson and just five minutes versus North Carolina.

The suit states that Hening supports social justice and believes that Black lives matter, but she does not support the BLM organization. “She disagrees with its tactics and core tenets of its mission statement, including defunding the police and eliminating the nuclear family.”

Hening’s lawsuit seeks to have Adair undergo First Amendment training and have her reinstated as a member of the Virginia Tech soccer team, taking no action against her for exercising her First Amendment rights. She is also seeking unspecified damages and costs and expenses of the legal action.

Neither Virginia Tech, nor Hening’s attorneys had responded to NBC12′s request for comment as of the publication of this report.

A defender and midfielder, Hening started 19 of 22 games played as a freshman in 2018, 18 of 19 matches the following year.

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