(Headline USA) A former Virginia Tech soccer player who alleged that she was benched for refusing to kneel during a Black Lives Matter demonstration won a $100,000 settlement this week.
The money will go to Kiersten Hening as part of an agreement to dismiss her federal lawsuit against the school, which allegedly punished her for exercising her First Amendment right not to participate in the pre-game demonstration. However, the settlement does not include an admission of wrongdoing by head coach Charles Adair.
Adair’s legal team insisted that he docked Hening’s playing time in games following the BLM demonstration because of poor performance, not her opposition to the movement.
“I am pleased the case against me has been closed and I am free to move forward clear of any wrong doing,” Adair wrote in a tweet. “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.”
Adair did not mention the $100,000 settlement.
Hening alleged that Adair yelled at her during halftime after she remained standing while most of her teammates knelt for BLM. She was then pulled from the field and kept off of it for most of the season, despite having been a starting player during her first two years of college.
Hening said she was ultimately forced to quit the team due to Adair’s “campaign of abuse and retaliation.”
“Because she refused to kneel, he benched her, subjected her to repeated verbal abuse, and forced her off the team,” the lawsuit read. “As a result of her coach’s actions, Hening can no longer play the game she loves, despite having two more years of NCAA eligibility. This court should vindicate Hening’s constitutional rights and award her legal and equitable relief.”
Prior to the settlement reached this week, U.S. District Judge Thomas Cullen awarded Hening a win when he denied a motion by Virginia Tech to have the case dismissed in December.