Former VT Soccer Player Who Won $100k Settlement Explains Why She Stood For Anthem

John Simmons | January 18, 2023
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Kiersten Hening, who played soccer for the Virginia Tech women’s program from 2018-2020, recently won a settlement of $100,000 for having her First Amendment rights violated. 

In the 2020 season, when the country was fresh off being especially engulfed by the social justice movement, she was berated by her head coach, Charles Adair, for not kneeling during the national anthem to protest in support of Black Lives Matter (BLM). Her playing time subsequently diminished and she got treated so poorly by Adair and some of her teammates that she decided to quit.

In an op-ed in the New York Post, Hening wrote that while she believes black people’s lives matter, she did not want to take part in the team’s form of protesting because she disagreed with what BLM stood for.

“The locker room became this really uncomfortable, toxic environment where some players wanted to force their activism on the entire team,” Hening said. “Of course I believe in black lives mattering, and I think our country has a lot of work to do — but I don’t support the organization Black Lives Matter. I did my research, and I take exception to aspects of their mission, like dismantling the nuclear family and defunding the police."

As she stood for the national anthem before a matchup with Tech’s rivals, the Virginia Cavaliers, everything seemed to be going just fine. But that quickly unraveled during the game, and the rest of that season.

“During our halftime huddle, our head coach laid into me. He berated me, stuck a finger in my face, and screamed in a way I’d never seen before. He even accused me of “bitching and moaning” by “doing my own thing,’” Hening said. “In a post-game meeting, he began blaming me for goals the other team scored, even when they were clearly not my fault. I was taken out of the starting lineup. I went from playing the most minutes of anyone on the team to spending most of my time on the bench.”

Hening filed a lawsuit against Adair in 2021, and she finally got positive closure two years later. With $100k now in her pocket, she will pursue getting into nursing school and becoming a doctor in a pediatric emergency department.

She hopes that her tribulation and story will serve as an encouragement to other people her age who might be scared to stand up for their beliefs. 

“Never sacrifice your morals and principles out of fear of being judged," Hening said. "Going against the grain can be difficult emotionally, physically and mentally, but I would do it all over again…When you stand up for your principles and don’t conform to the mob mentality, you learn just how many people actually agree with you. Courage is contagious.”

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