CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — A coach whom the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga (UTC) fired last January after he posted a tweet making fun of former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams' weight is suing the university, claiming it violated his First Amendment rights.
UTC fired assistant football coach Chris Malone after he tweeted on January 5th his reaction to the results of the twin Georgia U.S. Senate runoff elections, in which both Democratic candidates won,
"Congratulations to the State GA and Fat Albert @staceyabrams because you have truly shown America the true works of cheating an election again!!! Enjoy the buffee Big Girl! You earned it!! Hope the money was good, still not governor!"
Abrams was credited with helping turn out the vote for both Democratic candidates.
Malone's attorneys say he deleted the tweet after 30 minutes, but before that, many of our viewers captured a screengrab of it.
Two days later, UTC officials announced Malone's termination, and condemned the tweet. UTC Chancellor Mark Wharton called it "appalling:"
UTC head football coach Rusty Wright also called the tweet "appalling" and said it's "not any part of what I stand for or what Chattanooga Football stands for."
A release from Malone's attorney emailed to NewsChannel 9 Wednesday morning says Malone is suing UTC for "First Amendment violation."
Attorney Doug Chudar says in the release,
“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.”
Chudar continues in his release, “Calling politicians liars and cheaters is a proud American tradition. Nobody’s got a problem with it until its ‘their’ politician. And fat jokes might be unkind, but they aren’t uncommon. Just ask Chris Christie and Donald Trump.”
Malone complained of unfair treatment in the media, saying "I’ve coached more than 20 years, including at an HBCU school. I’m a good coach and get along with everyone. I criticize the wrong politician, and suddenly I’m racist? That’s completely false and a very tired cliché, I might add.”
We reached out to UTC officials for comment on this lawsuit. They declined to comment on pending litigation.
Read the full complaint and lawsuit below:
Depend on us to keep you posted on this developing story as we learn more.