When former Virginia Tech Hokies soccer player Kiersten Hening refused to kneel during the Star-Spangled Banner, she was allegedly benched as a result. Though other athletes on the team chose to take part in this trend of kneeling during the national anthem, Hening stood her ground and declared that she had been removed from play due to her decision. However, will such an argument be strong enough for legal proceedings?
Judge Thomas T. Cullen has just given Hening the green light to take Virginia Tech to court, asserting that her right of free speech was infringed upon when she chose not to kneel during the national anthem while being one of very few who decided against it. Her decision wasn’t motivated by a desire to express support for Black Lives Matter or protests denouncing police brutality towards people of color in America – rather, simply an affirmation of her own opinion on what is best for herself.
According to Hening, Virginia Tech Soccer Head Coach Charles Adair violated her freedom of speech when he benched her for not participating in the team’s collective kneeling during the playing of The Star-Spangled Banner at a game in 2020. This was an effort by both players and coaches to show unity following this incident.
In 2021, Hening took legal action against Virginia Tech and Coach Adair. In an effort to avoid having to pay any compensation for the alleged violation of her freedom of speech rights, Virginia Tech used its vast team of lawyers and filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit- thus delaying justice for Hening.
Hening reported that in 2020, Coach Adir began ostracizing her when she declined to show solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement by taking a knee during the national anthem. Additionally, Hening alleged that her coach not only oppressed and disrespected her but limited how much time she spent playing at official games.
Judge Cullen (above) said, “Hening, who had been a major on-field contributor for two years prior to the 2020 season, also asserts that Adair removed her from the starting lineup or the next two games and drastically reduced her playing time in those games because she had engaged in this protected First Amendment activity. As a result, Hening resigned from the team after the third game of the season.”
“As a freshman,” he stated, “Hening averaged 76 minutes of playing time; as a sophomore, nearly 88. But during the Clemson game [the next game after the kneeling incident], Hening only played 29 minutes, and, at the UNC game, just 5.”
Judge Cullen, a white man in his youth, declared that it appeared Coach Adir had targeted Hening on account of her opposition to the Black Lives Matter movement rather than for any soccer-related struggles. In fact, she was removed from the field merely because she did not kneel along with other woke teammates during the national anthem.
Judge Cullen continued, “For these reasons, the court will deny Adair’s motion for summary judgment, and this matter will proceed to trial.”