Former NBA umpires Kenny Mauer and Jason Phillips say the league’s “high standard” of proof required to receive a COVID-19 vaccine exemption violated their religious freedom.
The couple are now taking their grievances to court after the league rejected their requests for an exemption from the vaccination mandate.
“We participated in a 30-minute interview. A lawyer from the NBA office interviewed us, then went back to the NBA management, then they came to the conclusion that I was not a religious person, I guess,” Mauer said. Monday in “Fox & Friends First”.
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Mauer, who has been a practicing Catholic since his baptism nearly 60 years ago, said despite the dismissal, his faith has never changed and never will.
“[Neither] the NBA, no human being or no person in the world is going to change how I feel about our Lord Jesus Christ and how I feel about my faith, my religion…” he said.
Phillips said his own bye request was similarly satisfied when the league rejected his “sincere” request.
“[I] submitted a religious dispensation that was definitely sincere and then, after an interview with me too, the NBA came to the conclusion after a while that it wasn’t sincere…” he told Todd Piro.
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Attorney Sheldon Karasik, who will represent Phillips, Mauer and former umpire Mark Ayotte, said the NBA used a “Pinocchio test” to determine whether the bye requests were valid.
“When they were questioning my clients and everyone else for a period of 30 minutes, when my clients and others who are not entitled to legal representation, I guess their noses[s] grew several centimeters like Pinocchio’s and, to my surprise, they found out that they weren’t sincere and truthful,” he said.
“It’s a bogus exemption. It’s not a real exemption. They haven’t granted any based on analysis of statements over a long period of time…”
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He claimed the league took a number of requests “out of context”, jumping to conclusions that some applicants were lying about their religious beliefs.
“It’s nonsense,” he said.
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Reuters reported that the plaintiffs filed a lawsuit against the league in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York on Saturday.
The former referees said that although the NBA lifted the bye requirement for the season, they were never reinstated.
Fox News’ Ryan Gaydos contributed to this report.