CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (WKRN) – A former UT-Chattanooga football coach is suing the university for first amendment retaliation after he was fired for a tweet earlier this year.
Chris Malone, former offensive line coach for UTC’s football team, was fired on January 7, 2021 after posting a tweet on January 5 criticizing Stacey Abrams. Abrams is a nationally known politician from Georgia.
The tweet was posted around 11:35 p.m. and contained the following message, “Congratulations to the state GA and Fat Albert @staceyabrams because you have truly shown America the true works of cheating in an election, again!!! Enjoy the buffet Big Girl! You earned it!!! Hope the money was good, still not governor!”
Malone’s tweet was up for about thirty minutes. UTC officials released statements calling the tweet “appalling” and said that Malone was no longer a member of the UTC staff.
Malone’s attorney, Doug Churdar, stated UTC is a public university and is governed by the First Amendment. “UTC is going to get acquainted with the First Amendment. As a public
school, it cannot control what its employees say at social gatherings or on social media. It certainly
cannot fire them for criticizing and mocking politicians,” said Churdar.
According to court documents obtained by News 2, Malone had never been subjected to any disciplinary action of any kind during his time at UTC.
The suit states that shortly after Malone posted the tweet, three former players responded negatively to it, and Malone deleted the tweet and went to bed.
Malone’s attorney states the former coach went into work on January 6, 2021 as usual. Around 4:30 p.m. he reportedly got his first of three calls that day regarding the tweet. All calls were from Rusty Wright, Head football Coach at Chattanooga. In his third phone call, Malone states Wright informed him he was trying to get Malone suspended with pay but was not sure that would happen.
The lawsuit states the very next morning, January 7, 2021, Malone received a fourth call from Coach Wright. Wright informed Malone he would be fired if he did not resign. Malone then reportedly emailed Wright his resignation.
Malone’s attorney states that legally, forced resignation is termination.
This is a developing story. Stay with News 2 and WKRN.com for updates.
The suit goes on to list several examples of politicians being mocked for their weight throughout time.
Malone is suing for damages, claiming he suffered violations of his federal constitutional rights. Malone is also asking for the following items as relief: reinstatement with backpay, attorney fees and punitive damages.
The lawsuit was filed on Tuesday.