More Free-Expression Suppression at Virginia Tech

Kiersten Hening on the soccer field. Photo credit: Virginia Tech athletics

by James A. Bacon

In five years, the United States has gone from a country in which football quarterback Colin Kaepernick fought for the right to kneel during the national anthem into a country where Virginia Tech soccer player Kiersten Hening is fighting for the right to stand.

During their opening match in 2020, women of the Tech women’s soccer team bent the knee during the pregame reading of the Atlantic Coast Conference’s unity pledge, a show of support for the social justice movement and Black Lives Matter. Hening, a 21-year-old native of the Richmond area, and one other player remained standing. Hening says she “supports social justice and believes black lives matter” but “does not support the BLM organization.”

Chugger Adair. Photo credit: Free Lance-Star

During halftime, Coach Chugger Adair berated her for her stance. “He singled her out and verbally attacked her, pointing a finger directly in her face,”  according to a lawsuit Hening subsequently filed. “He denounced Hening for ‘bitching and moaning,’ for being selfish and individualistic, and for ‘doing her own thing,”

The lawsuit claims Adair continued to single her out, criticizing her performance before and during the team’s next match. Hening, who had started 37 matches during her first two seasons at Tech, did not start the next two games. She left shortly after. “Coach Adair’s campaign of abuse and retaliation made conditions for Hening so intolerable that she felt compelled to resign. Hening did not want to leave,” says the lawsuit, as reported by the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

According to the lawsuit, Adair was strongly supportive of the ACC’s equality pledge and even suggested having players wear the names of victims of alleged police misconduct on their jerseys, and that his direct supervisor, senior associate athletic director Reyna Gilbert-Lowery, “is a vocal supporter of (Black Lives Matter.)”

According to the lawsuit, Adair was aware of Hening’s political views prior to the start of the 2020 season, when he and a group of players were shown screenshots of private text messages she had sent to teammates.

A group of players then demanded on Sept. 3 that Adair address what they viewed as the racism of some of their teammates.

The lawsuit suggests this was the beginning of the coach targeting Hening for her political views.

Earlier this month, Virginia Tech was sued by the nonprofit Speech First, which alleged that the university put excessive restrictions on students’ free expression. Referring to the university’s policy on harassment and discrimination, Speech First President Nicole Neily said, “Through this elaborate disciplinary apparatus, administrators at Virginia Tech have intimidated students into silence, refraining altogether from expressing comments or viewpoints that might be perceived as controversial or offensive.”

Bacon’s bottom line: Adair’s alleged action went beyond failing to protect Hening’s right to free expression — he tried to compel her into taking a stance with which she did not agree. If her charges are true, Adair’s actions were reprehensible. The university administration should discipline him.

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13 responses to “More Free-Expression Suppression at Virginia Tech”

  1. James C. Sherlock Avatar
    James C. Sherlock

    “he and a group of players were shown screenshots of private text messages she had sent to teammates.” Shown by whom? And how were those messages gathered?

    1. Publius Avatar

      By the good little brown-shirt “friends” who wanted to stay safe from prosecution for receiving CrimeThink. They had to report her to absolve themselves…Comrade.

      1. James C. Sherlock Avatar
        James C. Sherlock

        Perhaps someone should report her harassment to the Virginia Tech police.

    2. Nancy Naive Avatar
      Nancy Naive

      Probably the recipient. Who else would have access?

      Perhaps this little girl’s biggest problem is her inability to pick friends.

  2. John Harvie Avatar
    John Harvie

    Good thing I’m not in Sands shoes because the jerk would be gone. I hope he personally pays any damages.

    Can anyone comment on sovereign immunity in a case like this? Hope taxpayers won’t be on the hook but probably will be.

    1. Stephen Haner Avatar
      Stephen Haner

      I’m not sure they could invoke sovereign immunity as a defense as he’s not really covered by that individually, and I’m not sure major monetary damages are the goal (unless she was on scholarship). She has accomplished her main purpose of exposing the alleged behavior and and seeking to embarrass the coach and the school. I predict some will praise her and some will curse her and not much will change.

      Not sure, but it seems this may be the statement she was expected to kneel to? “We, the ACC, are committed to seeing each other as equals, supporting each other, and treating each other with respect and dignity at all times, recognizing that our differences don’t divide us, but they make us stronger.” Differences apparently do divide….

  3. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
    Dick Hall-Sizemore

    If the accusations are accurate, the coach’s actions were absolutely wrong. He should be supporting the right of any player to voice her opinion. I don’t like the idea of bringing a law suit. I am not sure one can be sued for acting like a jerk. There must be a better way to expose this behavior.

    1. Stephen Haner Avatar
      Stephen Haner

      Well, there is this little thing called “discovery” and it is a marvelous process for getting out information normally kept out of sight….

  4. Nancy Naive Avatar
    Nancy Naive

    Show us the texts!

    And, just like every one of these “lawsuits”, e.g., the one this summer reported in BR against the VB academy, it won’t make it to any court, you will only hear the one side, and then *poof* NADA.

    Surprise me, little girl. Don’t settle.

  5. Nancy Naive Avatar
    Nancy Naive

    4 million years of throwing sticks. 120 years between powered flight on two different planets. Not bad for an ape.

  6. ““He denounced Hening for… ‘doing her own thing,””

    “Do your own thing” was practically the religion of leftists and so-called progressives not all that long ago. Of course, at one time they supported, or at least claimed to support, free speech, too.

    A LOT has changed about “Liberals” since the 1960s through 90s and now. Blatant, unapologetic hypocrisy appears to be their religion in the 21st century.

  7. I’m now more confused than ever about this whole “kneeling” thing.

    I thought kneeling during a particular song/ritual is a protest against said song/ritual. In this case, though, the players were apparently kneeling as a sign of support for a particular ritual.

    It would be helpful if the Social Justice League, or whatever organization it is that dictates acceptable behavior, would print a guidebook that gives instructions on when kneeling is inappropriate, when it is acceptable, and when it is required. At least then I will know when I am engaging in cancellable behavior…

  8. YRofTexas Avatar

    Angry with both the coach AND Virginia Tech. VT, I am certain, have rules in place against what the coach did. His supervisors looked the other way, which means, as agents representing VT, they condone the illegal acts against the student, and VT should be given the ‘death penalty’ as SMU’s sport program was, many moons ago. VT must feel the pain.

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