Soccer Player Allowed To Sue Coach Over BLM Punishment

A federal judge in Virginia has ruled that a former member of the Virginia Tech women’s soccer team will be allowed to proceed with her lawsuit claiming she was unlawfully punished for refusing to kneel in respect to a Black Lives Matter protest.

Kiersten Henning alleges that her former coach, Charles “Chugger” Adair, caused her to quit the team when he began a “campaign of abuse and retaliation” against her after she refused to take part in a pre-game social justice demonstration.

Henning was a starter on the Virginia Tech team from 2018 through 2020. She had a key role on the team, starting in 37 of the team’s 41 matches during her freshman and sophomore years.

Things changed in her relationship with Coach Adair in the opening match of Henning’s junior year season when she refused to take a knee before her team took on the University of Virginia team on September 12, 2020.

Henning and one other unidentified player decided not to participate in kneeling during a recital of the Atlantic Coast Conference “unity pledge.” The gesture was apparently intended to demonstrate support for Black Lives Matter and the social justice movement generally.

The lawsuit that Henning filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia in March 2021 claims that after she refused to take a knee, Adair immediately “benched her, subjected her to repeated verbal abuse, and forced her off the team.”

The case further alleges that Adair singled Henning out and “verbally attacked her, pointing a finger directly in her face.”

Further, Adair is claimed to have “denounced Hening for ‘bitching and moaning,’ for being selfish and individualistic, and for ‘doing her own thing.'”

Henning resigned from the team after the third game of the season.

Henning claims in part that while Adair was acting as an employee and agent of a state university, he violated her rights protected by the First Amendment.

U.S. District Judge Thomas Cullen ruled against Adair’s motion to dismiss the case earlier this month. Cullen ordered that the case shall proceed to trial before a jury.

Cullen’s ruling found that Adair began slashing Henning’s playing time immediately after she refused to participate in the kneeling display. He ruled that the facts presented by the parties could lead a jury to decide that Adair punished Cullen for exercising her First Amendment rights.

Cullen was appointed to the federal bench by President Donald Trump in 2020.

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