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Judge approves lawsuit filed by former Virginia Tech football player who allegedly refused to kneel during national anthem

A former Virginia Tech football player who says she was benched for refusing to kneel during the national anthem has been given the green light to sue the school for violating her free speech.

U.S. District Judge Thomas T. Cullen gave former Hokies midfielder Kiersten Hening the green light to sue coach Charles Aidair on First Amendment grounds after Hening said the coach had been benched for refusing to join the team’s kneeling in 2020 as a “statement of unity”.

Hening sued the school and the coach last year, but the school filed a motion to have the lawsuit dismissed. But on Dec. 2, Judge Cullen ruled the lawsuit could go ahead, Fox News reported.

Virginia Tech Hokies fans cheer during the second half of the game against the Charleston Southern Buccaneers at Cassell Coliseum on November 25, 2022 in Blacksburg, Virginia. (Ryan Hunt/Getty Images)

Hening claims she was benched because she often found herself at odds with the coach and team’s support for the Black Lives Matter movement. She added that Aidair repeatedly verbally abused her after her political views began to clash with hers. And then he even refused to let her play.

“Hening, who had been a major contributor on the field for two years prior to the 2020 season, also claims that Adair removed her from the starting lineup for the next two games and significantly reduced her playing time in those games. because she had engaged in this protected First Amendment activity. Accordingly, Hening resigned from the team after the third game of the season,” Judge Cullen wrote in his ruling.

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“As a rookie, Hening averaged 76 minutes of playing time; in the second year, almost 88 years old, ”continued the judge. “But during the Clemson game [the next game after the kneeling incident]Hening only played 29 minutes and, in the UNC game, only 5.”

The Trump-appointed judge added that the facts of the case tend to show on the surface that the coach retaliated against the player based on personal political views, not sporting ones. He added that Hening’s right to his own political views is “the fundamental constitutional principle…both clearly established and fundamental to a free society, and especially to an institution of higher learning.”

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