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Kiersten Hening: Virginia Tech soccer player benched by coach for refusing to kneel gets $100K settlement

Kiersten Hening, who was a Hokies midfielder and defender from 2018 to 2020, also alleged the coach 'verbally attacked her' at halftime
Kiersten Hening filed a lawsuit against her coach Charles Adair in 2021 (Hokie Sports and YouTube/Virginia Tech Athletics)
Kiersten Hening filed a lawsuit against her coach Charles Adair in 2021 (Hokie Sports and YouTube/Virginia Tech Athletics)

RICHMOND, VIRGINIA: A former Virginia Tech soccer player who was benched by her coach for refusing to kneel is reportedly set to get at least $100,000 as part of an agreement to dismiss a federal lawsuit. Kiersten Hening had filed the lawsuit in 2021 against head coach Charles "Chugger" Adair on First Amendment grounds and will receive the sum as part of a settlement, her attorney Cameron Norris said last week. 

According to the reports of the Roanoke Times, Norris stated the terms of settlement did not include an admission of wrongdoing by either Hening or Adair. The outlet further reported that there are no details of the settlement in court records but the attorney said the agreement has to be approved by the university and state officials before it becomes final. 


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Hening, who played as a midfielder and defender for the Hokies from 2018 to 2020, sued Adair in his personal and official capacity as coach, claiming she was removed from her position on the field after she declined to kneel during an event before a game against UVA on September 12, 2020. The outlet reported that the event was held during the height of the Black Lives Matter movement, after the killing of George Floyd. She said the coach "verbally attacked her" at halftime, claiming she was "b--tching and moaning" while putting his finger in her face.


Hening explained in the lawsuit that while she "supports social justice and believes that black lives matter," she "does not support BLM the organization," citing its "tactics and core tenets of its mission statement, including defunding the police." According to the suit, Adair chastised Hening until he benched her and ultimately made things so unbearable that she had no other alternatives but to quit the team. 

Federal Judge Thomas Cullen denied a motion to dismiss the lawsuit on December 2, citing Hening's time on the field dropped off following the kneeling incident. Adair argued that a couple of other players who declined to kneel did not face reduced playing time. 

"Ultimately, Adair may convince a jury that this coaching decision was based solely on Hening’s poor play during the UVA game, but the court, viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to Hening, cannot reach that conclusion as a matter of law," ruled Cullen, who said the issues in the case are fundamental.

The three-day trial, which was scheduled to take place later this month, was canceled last Tuesday, January 3. Adair released a statement on January 4, on Twitter, saying, "I am pleased the case against me has been closed and I am free to move forward clear of any wrong doing." "It’s unfortunate, but this ordeal was about a disappointment and disagreement about playing time. Today, we have clarity that this case lacked any standing, and without evidence, the truth has prevailed," he added, making no mention of the settlement.


Attorney Adam Mortara tweeted in reply to Adair's statement, "If by clarity you mean you are paying my client six figures in a settlement then you’re right that’s pretty clear. Honestly, Coach, read the Court’s opinion. You are paying. Defendants don’t pay in cases that have no standing." Mortara went on to thank Adair and his "bosses at Tech for paying the equivalent of several years of tuition."