By Eurohoops team/ [email protected]
German basketball referee Benjamin Barth claims that he stopped being assigned games in Euroleague at a certain point because he refused to shave his beard.
The 43-year-old told the “Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung” that he documented the discussion with the league via chat logs from autumn 2021, among other things.
Apparently, on October 5, 2021, Barth received a WhatsApp message from Richard Stokes, the head of the EuroLeague referees. He was asked if he could officiate a Euroleague game to which Barth agreed.
However, the referee was instructed to shave his beard, something Barth didn’t want to do. At first he wasn’t sure if the request was serious but Stokes clarified it in the phone call that followed later.
“Stokes explained to me that head coaches and sports directors don’t like beards and would complain about it,” Barth said and explained that he was given an ultimatum.
Shave the beard or forget about officiating in Euroleague.
Barth refused to budge and also asked around if other referees had the same problem. Indeed they did. A number of referees decided to shave in order to continue officiating since they’ve been financially dependent on Euroleague.
The Union of Euroleague Basketball Officials weren’t able to help Barth, noting that their hands are tied and that he should reconsider the matter.
However, Barth considered it an act of discrimination that he wholeheartedly refused to accept and hired lawyers as the next step. The whole correspondence is available to basketball.de.
The EuroLeague initially rejected the letter and noted that Barth was also not nominated because the second phase of the competition required more experience. When Barth threatened to make the case public, the EuroLeague apologized.
The EuroLeague apologized in writing, with a letter to Barth. It stated that the request to shave was “misguided and unacceptable”. It also said that, in the future, the EuroLeague will not require Barth or any other referee to shave.
The letter also included a request from Stokes to meet Barth and apologize personally, something Barth has no intention of ever doing. Barth isn’t set on returning to Euroleague and would move on from the competition without regrets. He just wanted to make sure the treatment he and other referees received was made public.
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