Ken Mauer, one of the longest-tenured referees in NBA history, says he was forced out of the league at the beginning of the current season because of his religious objection to the COVID vaccines.
During a wide-ranging, two-hour interview on “Fearless with Jason Whitlock,” Mauer, a 36-year veteran known for his slicked-back, Pat Riley-style hair, revealed the reason for his season-long absence.
“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’s happened,” Mauer said. “Not to just me, but other people.”
Mauer, a lifelong Catholic, has done his own research and has concerns and reasons for refusing to take the COVID-19 vaccine, including his belief that aborted fetal tissue was used in the development of the vaccine. (Many experts dispute Mauer’s contention. Pope Francis has endorsed use of the vaccines.)
Mauer said that as many as 17 referees objected to the vaccine mandate the NBA squeezed into its collective bargaining agreement with the National Basketball Referees Association before the season. There is no mandate for players. He said nine refs initially organized and hired a lawyer to fight the mandate on religious grounds.
By the start of the season, Mauer, Mark Ayotte, Leroy Richardson, and Jason Phillips (head of replay center) were the final holdouts. Richardson agreed to arbitration and lost his appeal. Phillips, according to Mauer, is paid to work from home. Mauer and Ayotte filed appeals with the EEOC.
“I’m not ashamed of what I’m doing,” Mauer said in the interview that will air early Tuesday evening. “In fact, I’m very proud of what I’m doing. I’m very proud of my faith. … I’m no different than the truck driver, than the schoolteacher, than the health care worker, than the person working construction or whatever. They either medically or religiously don’t feel ike taking the vaccine, and now they’re being forced to or else they’re going to lose their job. And I think that’s a shame.
“There are many referees that didn’t want to take the vaccine. And there are many referees who were forced to because they have children, they have families, and they have bills to pay. … They’re scared and I’m not. I’m never going to take (the vaccine).”
In the history of the NBA, only Dick Bavetta and Joey Crawford attained more service time than Mauer. Bavetta and Crawford retired after 39 years of service. Mauer, 66, said he planned to eclipse Bavetta’s and Crawford’s standard.
Over the course of the interview, Mauer addressed several NBA-related topics, including the league’s embrace of Black Lives Matter. He relayed a story about a five-hour Zoom meeting among referees that was titled “Black Lives Matter.”“It was one of the worst experiences I’d ever experienced as a professional referee,” he said.