Former NBA refs claim they were fired for refusing vax COVID, alleging 'hit or job ultimatum'

Former NBA refs claim they were fired for refusing vax COVID, alleging ‘hit or job ultimatum’

Three former NBA umpires filed a lawsuit against the league on Saturday, saying they were fired for refusing to receive COVID-19 vaccines for religious reasons.

Kenny Mauer, Mark Ayotte and Jason Phillips filed suit in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York, according to Reuters. The former umpires allege the NBA improperly coerced them into complying with vaccination policy and wrongly concluded that their objections on religious grounds fell short of its “high standard” against vaccination.

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NBA Referee Ken Mauer at American Airlines Center on October 18, 2017 in Dallas, Texas.
(Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

The NBA’s “jab or job ultimatum” ultimately led to their suspensions for the 2021-22 season, and they claim the league refused to reinstate them despite lifting the requirement for that season.

“Had the NBA not taken it upon itself to force denominational conscientious objectors to adhere to secular standards, none of the injuries complained of by plaintiffs would have manifested themselves,” the complaint reads. “In short: the plaintiffs were persecuted.

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Mark Ayotte in action during the Brooklyn Nets and Orlando Magic game at Barclays Center on February 24, 2020 in New York City.

Mark Ayotte in action during the Brooklyn Nets and Orlando Magic game at Barclays Center on February 24, 2020 in New York City.
(Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

Referees Jason Phillips and Mike Callahan before Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals between the Golden State Warriors and the Trail Blazers on May 20, 2019 at the Moda Center in Portland, Oregon.

Referees Jason Phillips and Mike Callahan before Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals between the Golden State Warriors and the Trail Blazers on May 20, 2019 at the Moda Center in Portland, Oregon.
(Cameron Browne/NBAE via Getty Images)

The NBA announced in August 2021 that it had reached an agreement with the National Basketball Referees Association on the matter. The league said at the time that any referee who had a documented medical or religious reason for not being vaccinated could apply for a bye. If there were no exemption, an unvaccinated umpire would not be eligible for working games.

The NBA’s mandate covered coaches, support staff traveling with teams, locker room attendants and those who worked at the scoring tables. Players were not required to be vaccinated.

The NBA did not immediately return Fox News Digital’s request for comment.

National Basketball Association logo displayed on a smartphone screen.

National Basketball Association logo displayed on a smartphone screen.
(Budrul Chukrut/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

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Mauer said he had been a referee for 35 years while Ayotte had been refereeing for 17 years. Phillips served as an umpire for 19 years before being promoted to vice president of umpiring operations and director of the replay center.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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