Former NHL Referees Claim They Were Fired For Reporting Coworker's Racist, Sexist Language

The two are seeking reinstatement and punitive damages.

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A new lawsuit against the NHL by two former referees alleges they were fired because they reported a peer who used racist and sexually charged language for several years during his tenure.

According to TSN, the lawsuit asks that the NHL reinstate David Walkowiak and James Watkins, who refereed during Lightning games in Tampa Bay, and that the league pay them punitive damage for the way they treated the pair.

The lawsuit explains that the two were fired from the NHL on Feb. 27, 2020. They both alleged that their peer Pat DeLorenzo Jr. used racist language several times during their time together at work.

“DeLorenzo made negative racial comments about [NHL] employees, including but not limited to [NHL]’s African-American hockey players and the African-American veteran, Sonya Bryson-Kirksey, who sings the national anthem at Tampa Bay Lightning games at Amalie Arena,” the lawsuit reads, according to TSN.

In November and December 2019, the two referees brought this to the attention of the NHL's former crew chief in Tampa, Ron Brace, who allegedly didn't do anything about their claim.

The lawsuit also claims Watkins complained about DeLorenzo's language to Patrice Distler, the NHL's vice-president of human resources, and Katherine Watson, an NHL lawyer and claimed there was video evidence of DeLorenzo using said language.

Distler and Watson then allegedly contacted Walkowiak and Watkins, which led to both fearing they may be fired for reporting DeLorenzo's language.

Walkowiak and Watkins allege they were promised protection under the league's whistle-blower policy, but were subsequently fired on Feb. 27, 2020, over a month after the league fired DeLorenzo.

The reason for the two's firing was for allegedly being a part of a group text that included DeLorenzo years earlier. The NHL has not revealed the message that led to the pair's firing.

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