NBA Referee Suspended for Refusing COVID Vaccine 'Proud' of Freedom Convoy

Ken Mauer, an NBA referee since 1986 who says he was prevented from continuing his career because of his religious objections to the vaccine mandate agreed to by the NBA referees' union, said he is "proud" of the truckers protesting against COVID restrictions and mandates in Canada and that he wishes his union would have done the same.

Mauer said in a recent episode of Fearless, a show from The Blaze hosted by Jason Whitlock, that some of the NBA's over 70 referees in the union had questions about the union agreeing to a vaccine mandate.

NBA players were not required to get the COVID vaccine before returning to play for the 2021-22 season, as the NBA Players Association pushed back on a full mandate. The league's collective bargaining agreement with the National Basketball Referees Association, however, did include a vaccine mandate, and by the start of the season only four referees, including Mauer, were not vaccinated, Mediaite reported.

In the podcast, Mauer said that he personally decided not to get vaccinated because of a disputed claim that aborted fetal tissue was used in development of the vaccine, according to Mediaite. Mauer said he is proud of the Canadian truckers and wishes his union would have fought harder against allowing a vaccine mandate and instead allowed it to be a personal choice.

"I will never ever question what a trucker charges me to ship something again in my life," Mauer said. "Whatever he charges, I'm gonna pay it, whatever it is. I'm so proud of them."

He said he believes most of the truckers are vaccinated and are simply fighting the fact that it's mandated and that some people may lose their jobs over the mandate, and said he "hopes to see" the same in America soon.

Mauer, a Catholic, said he never thought that his religious beliefs would get in the way of his job as a referee, but the COVID vaccine made that happen. The Catholic Church has approved getting the COVID vaccine, with Pope Francis last month calling it a "moral obligation" to those around us to do so.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has touted the success of the league's programs encouraging players to get vaccinated and said the league is about 97 or 98 percent vaccinated with a significant number having received boosters as well.

However, that small percentage of unvaccinated players has produced some notable exceptions like Kyrie Irving of the Brooklyn Nets, who has been unable to play in home games this season because of New York City's vaccine requirements for large public gatherings. Last week, NYC Mayor Eric Adams called the mandate "unfair" because it is stopping Irving from playing at home but does not stop unvaccinated players from opposing teams from coming into Brooklyn to play.

At a Wednesday event, Adams responded to a question about other cities lifting vaccine and mask requirements by saying he was excited for New York City to reach that point and to expect more announcements about those requirements changing in the coming weeks. If the mandate is lifted, it could allow Irving to return to Nets home games for the rest of the regular season and playoffs.

Newsweek has reached out to the National Basketball Referees Association for comment on Mauer's recent statements.

Update 2/23/22 1:09 p.m. EST: This story has been updated with additional context and information.

Ken Mauer NBA Referee COVID Vaccine Mandate
Ken Mauer, an NBA referee since 1986, said he wishes his union would have fought harder against a vaccine mandate, like the Canadian truckers protesting COVID restrictions. Above, Mauer stands during a game between the Miami Heat and the Utah Jazz at American Airlines Arena on December 2, 2018 in Miami. Michael Reaves/Getty Images