The NBA is being sued by three longtime refs who claim they were fired after electing not to receive the COVID-19 vaccine over religious objections.
The three referees say that the NBA’s “jab or job ultimatum” led to their suspension during the 2021-22 season. The league required all employers other than players to receive the COVID-19 vaccine last season.
The NBA lifted the vaccine requirement for the 2022-23 campaign, but the three officials have not been reinstated to work this season.
Kenny Mauer, Jason Phillips, and Mark Ayotte filed their complaint against the NBA in a Manhattan federal court over the weekend. The three plaintiffs claim that the league improperly forced compliance with its “hygienic norms” and that their religious objections to the jab fell short of the NBA’s “high standard” against being vaccinated.
“I never thought that my faith in our Lord Jesus Christ would prevent me or stop me or get in the way of me refereeing NBA basketball games… That’s what happened,” Mauer said back in February. “Not to just me, but other people.”
Between Mauer, Phillips, and Ayotte, the three have 71 combined years of officiating NBA games.
The three explain in their complaint filed to the court that they were “persecuted.”
“Had the NBA not taken upon itself to force faith-based conscientious objectors to adhere to secular norms, none of plaintiffs’ complained-of injuries would have manifested,” the complaint said. “In sum: Plaintiffs were persecuted.”
The lawsuit specifically accuses the NBA of violating federal civil rights law as well as New York state and city human rights laws.
The referees are seeking front and back pay, punitive damages, and damages for reputational harm, pain, and suffering.