A federal judge has given the green light to a civil rights lawsuit accusing a public university of punishing an athlete for refusing to kneel in public support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Kiersten Hening, a former Virginia Tech University women’s soccer player, is suing coach Charles “Chugger” Aidair for violating her First Amendment rights, alleging he berated her in front of teammates, stripped her of playing time and demanded she leave the team for refusing to kneel on the field.
Virginia Tech University is a government institution, which is not allowed to punish or discourage political speech.
Hening says she supports social justice and the goals of Black Lives Matter but does not support the rioting and violence associated with its supporters or the organization’s stated goal of defunding the police.
Hening alleges that after she did not kneel while a public address announcer read a “Unity Statement” supporting BLM before the team’s 2020 season opener against the University of Virginia Aidair verbally attacked her at halftime in front of teammates and again later while reviewing game film, for ‘bitching and moaning’ and ‘doing [her] own thing.’”
After the incident, Hening saw her on-field playing time dramatically reduced.
“Adair removed her from the starting lineup for the next two games and drastically reduced her playing time in those games because she had engaged in this protected First Amendment activity,” U.S. District Judge Thomas Cullen noted in his ruling that her lawsuit was sufficient to proceed to trial. “As a result, Hening resigned from the team after the third game of the season.”
“As a freshman, Hening averaged 76 minutes of playing time; as a sophomore, nearly 88,” Cullen wrote. “But during the Clemson game [the next game after the kneeling incident], Hening only played 29 minutes, and, at the UNC game, just 5.” In his motion to dismiss the suit, Aidair alleges his halftime criticism and decision to reduce Hening’s playing time was due to lackluster on-field performance, and two other players who refused to kneel did not see their playing time reduced.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the positions of The Republican Standard. It first appeared in American Liberty News.