A judge has allowed a lawsuit from an ex-Virginia Tech soccer player who alleged she was punished for refusing to kneel in a social justice demonstration to go forward.
By all accounts, Kiersten Hening was a star defender and midfielder for the Hokies. She started 19 games as a freshman and the last 18 during her sophomore year, logging the second-most minutes among field players.
Then her athletic career quickly unraveled.
Hening and one other player refused to kneel during the pregame reading of the Atlantic Coast Conference’s unity pledge. The Hokies were preparing to face the Virginia Cavaliers on Sept. 12, 2020, during the height of the George Floyd riots.
According to Hening, this simple act began a “campaign of abuse and retaliation from Hokies head coach Charles “Chugger” Adair.
When it comes to the national anthem, standing is the new kneeling. I’m proud of Kiersten Hening for standing. pic.twitter.com/wv8uP2uNvc
— Vivek Ramaswamy (@VivekGRamaswamy) April 23, 2021
The suit, filed in March 2021, claimed that Hening was singled out and verbally attacked. It described Adair pointing his finger at her face and belittling her for “doing her own thing” and being selfish. Ultimately, it alleged that he forced her off the team.
According to Fox News, federal Judge Thomas Cullen decided that the case may go to trial. In his ruling, he noted the drastic cut in playing time for Hening after she exercised her 1st Amendment rights.
Cullen noted that she averaged 76 minutes a game as a freshman and almost 88 as a sophomore. That changed immediately after the kneeling incident.
The next game, against Clemson, saw Hening on the pitch for only 29 minutes. That was quickly followed by a match against UNC where she logged only five minutes. Shortly afterward Hening resigned from the team.
According to the lawsuit, Hening supports social justice causes and “believes that black lives matter.” She added, however, that she does not support the BLM organization due to its “tactics and core tenets,” which include defunding the police.
For his part, Adair said that other players who refused to kneel did not receive reduced playing time.
The freedom to kneel in protest must also be adjoined with the freedom to refrain from kneeling. Coerced protest statements and actions are nothing more than window dressing, and they clearly violate sacred constitutional rights.