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‘I’m Very Proud Of My Faith’: Longtime NBA Referee Says Absence From Games Is Over Vax Mandate
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JUNE 15: Head coach Steve Nash talks with referee Ken Mauer #41 during game 5 of the Eastern Conference second round at Barclays Center on June 15, 2021 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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On the latest episode of the “Fearless with Jason Whitlock,” 36-year veteran NBA referee Ken Mauer explained that his absence from the NBA sidelines during the 2021-2022 season is due to the NBA’s vaccine requirement for referees. 

“I guess 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,” Mauer told Whitlock. “And that’s about it in a nutshell. And that’s what’s happened. Not just to me but to other people. We were offered a one-year contract at the beginning of this season. Our union, or executive board, came to us with a one year contract, but in that one year contract, the league was requesting that we mandate that all of us take the vaccine. It was a shock to all of us, or to a lot of us, because last year, through a much more difficult time even through the bubble [NBA restart in Orlando], referees were given the option to either take the vaccine or you could test.”

“Last year, I tested four times on game days,” he added. “Because I had chosen not to take the vaccine” 

Mauer is a practicing Catholic and will not take the COVID-19 vaccine due to his faith, although the Vatican’s official guidance allows for the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines. During the 2020-2021 season, the vaccine was not mandated for referees, but that changed for the 2021-2022 season. 

“For whatever reason he [NBA commissioner Adam Silver] and the NBA changed, and going into this season, it was mandated that you take the vaccine or you would not be allowed to referee in the NBA,” Mauer said. 

In September of 2021, the NBA announced a vaccine requirement for referees and any member of an NBA team who works within 15 feet of players. They did not however mandate the COVID-19 vaccine for NBA players, due to pushback from the National Basketball Players Association. 

“I don’t know, and that’s a question I know our union asked,” Mauer said when asked why players are not mandated to be vaccinated. “I know our union representatives asked. I know every referee’s asked that. They wanted everybody to take the vaccine … but let’s make this very clear here. A lot of the players didn’t want to, and a lot of the referees didn’t want to [take the vaccine].” 

Mauer, who has been associated with the NBA for 43 years, has not publicly spoken about losing his job due to the vaccine mandate until now. 

“First of all, I’m comfortable with you,” Mauer told Whitlock when asked why he’s now telling his story. “I really believe that the real message will get out. I’ve never not been willing to talk … I’m not ashamed of what I’m doing. In fact, I’m very proud of what I’m doing. I’m very proud of my faith.”

“I’m no different, Jason, than the truck driver, than the school teacher, than the healthcare worker, than the person working construction. They don’t either medically or religiously feel like taking the vaccine, and now they’re being forced to or else they’re going to lose their job,” Mauer continued. “And I think that’s a shame. There’s many referees that didn’t want to take the vaccine. And there are many referees that were forced to because they have children, they have families,and  they have bills to pay. I’m not going to get into the NBA and their position. You’ll have to talk to them. I’m not here to even talk negatively about the NBA.”

“I’m here to say that there’s a lot of people that didn’t want to take this in the NBA — you call it whatever you want — coerced, forced, and now they’re taking it. And now there’s boosters. And they’re scared,” he added. “And I’m not. And because I’m not going to ever take that [the COVID-19 vaccine].”

Later in his nearly two hour interview with Whitlock, Mauer discussed the NBA’s decision to align themselves with certain social justice groups, detailing a five hour and twenty six minute zoom call he participated in with the entire NBA titled “Black Lives Matter.” 

“I don’t know what precipitated the call, all I know is it was one of the worst experiences I had ever experienced as a professional referee,” Mauer said. 

Mauer explained that one white referee spoke out against the rioting occurring during the summer of 2020, and was berated for his comment. 

“He said, ‘You can’t possibly tell me that you agree with the rioting and the looting that is taking place in Minneapolis,’” he told Whitlock. 

Prior to the start of the 2021-2022 NBA season, the league was forced to deal with a handful of players unwilling to take the COVID-19 vaccine. One of those players, Kyrie Irving of the Brooklyn Nets, is still not allowed to play in his team’s home games due to local New York City restrictions. But the tide seems to be shifting in Irving’s direction, with NBA commissioner Adam Silver saying that NYC’s vaccine mandate “doesn’t quite make sense” in an interview with ESPN last week. 

“This law in New York, the oddity of it to me is that it only applies to home players,” Silver said on Wednesday. “I think if ultimately that rule is about protecting people who are in the arena, it just doesn’t quite make sense to me that an away player who is unvaccinated can play in Barclays but the home player can’t. To me, that’s a reason they should take a look at that ordinance.”

Per New York City regulations, visiting players are not subject to the vaccine requirement which applies to players of the Nets and the New York Knicks. 

“So while, again, my personal view is people should get vaccinated and boosted, I can imagine a scenario where Brooklyn, as part of New York City, with a new mayor now who wasn’t in place, Eric Adams, when that original ordinance was put into place, I could see him deciding to change along the way and say it’s no longer necessary to have a mandatory vaccination requirement, as I said, particularly one that only affects home players,” Silver continued

Joe Morgan is the Sports Reporter for The Daily Wire. Most recently, Morgan covered the Clippers, Lakers, and the NBA for Sporting News. Send your sports questions to [email protected].

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The Daily Wire   >  Read   >  ‘I’m Very Proud Of My Faith’: Longtime NBA Referee Says Absence From Games Is Over Vax Mandate