Last Updated on November 15, 2022

Three longtime NBA referees who were fired over their refusal to receive a COVID-19 vaccine have filed a lawsuit against the league, arguing that NBA executives did not consider their requests for religious exemption.

Kenny Mauer, Jason Phillips, and Mark Ayotte filed their complaint against the NBA in a Manhattan federal court over the weekend, Outkick reported. The three former NBA referees claim that the league illegally forced compliance with its “hygienic norms” and ruled that their religious exemptions to the vaccine did not meet the NBA’s “high standard” of promoting vaccination.

As a result of their refusal to comply, all three officials were suspended for the entirety of the 2021-22 season. The NBA required all employees to receive at least one two-dose mRNA vaccine or a single dose injection from Johnson & Johnson in order to work, with the exception of players.

Some players were required to get the jab due to city-enforced mandates, however, the most notable being Kyrie Irving, who was sidelined for the bulk of the season as a result of New York City’s jab mandate.


The league later lifted the vaccine requirement for the 2022-23 season, as did all cities that host NBA franchises. The three terminated NBA referees have not been reinstated, however, prompting the lawsuit.

“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 told Jason Whitlock of TheBlaze this past February. “Not to just me, but other people.”

Between Mauer, Phillips, and Ayotte, the three have 71 combined years of officiating NBA games, Outkick reported.

“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 accuses the NBA of violating federal civil rights law, in addition to New York state and city human rights statutes. The fired referees are seeking front and back pay, punitive damages, and damages for reputational harm, pain, and suffering.

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