The attorney for former Virginia Tech soccer player Kiersten Hening said she will receive a $100,000 settlement after she alleged she was punished for refusing to kneel during the reading of a statement in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
In 2021, Hening filed a lawsuit against Virginia Tech Women’s Soccer head coach Charles “Chugger” Adair, alleging he benched her after she refused to kneel before the team’s 2020 season opener against the University of Virginia. Hening’s attorney, Cameron Norris, told the Roanoke Times that the parties reached a settlement in an agreement for Hening to drop the federal lawsuit over Adair’s alleged violation of her First Amendment free speech rights.
The settlement comes about a month after a federal judge ruled that Hening’s lawsuit could proceed. Hening remained standing during the 2020 season opener as most of the other players took a knee and a “Unity Statement” was read over the loudspeakers. Hening alleged that Adair berated her at half-time in front of her teammates and again at a film-review session the following week, for “bitching and moaning” and “doing [her] own thing” instead of participating in the kneeling event.
The lawsuit stated that after the kneeling incident, Adair also cut much of Hening’s subsequent playing time and she subsequently decided to quit the team.
Norris told the Roanoke Times that the terms of the settlement included no admission of wrongdoing by Adair or Hening.
Coach Claimed Hening’s Playing Time Cut Over On-Field Performance
As part of his initial arguments against the lawsuit, Adair claimed he benched Hening and cut her playing time over poor performance on the soccer field. Adair also raised a defense that other Virginia Tech players had refused to kneel during the “Unity Statement” but he didn’t reduce the field time of those players.
In a recent legal filing (pdf) Hening argued that she had started in nearly 40 games prior to the 2020 season opener, including all but three games during her freshman year. Hening’s legal team further argued that she also typically played most of the minutes of the games she was in. The filing indicated she planned to call an expert witness with experience playing and coaching college soccer to rebut Adair’s claims that the cuts in Hening’s play time had anything to do with her on-field performance.
On Wednesday, Adair tweeted a statement, saying the decision to close the case shows that Hening’s claims lacked evidence and legal standing.
“It’s unfortunate, but this ordeal was about a disappointment and a disagreement about playing time,” Adair’s statement reads. “Today, we have the clarity that this case lacked any standing, and without evidence, the truth has prevailed.”
“If by clarity you mean you are paying my client six figures in a settlement then you’re right that’s pretty clear,” wrote one of Hening’s attorney’s, Adam Mortara wrote on Twitter. “Honestly, Coach, read the Court’s opinion. You are paying. Defendants don’t pay in cases that have no standing.”