Not allowed to whistle games because you have a beard? What sounds like a completely absurd news story from the refereeing world really happened to a German referee – in the basketball Euroleague.

The German basketball referee Benjamin Barth was not assigned any more games in the Euroleague from a certain point on because he did not shave off his beard. The 43-year-old told this to the “Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung” and documented the incident with chat transcripts from the autumn of 2021. “Stokes explained to me that head coaches and sports directors don’t like beards and would complain about it,” Barth told the FAZ, referring to Richard Stokes, the Euroleague’s head of refereeing.

Barth: “I can’t accept that”.

According to the report, the German referee refused to shave off his beard even after being asked to do so several times. “I don’t understand what this is about. What difference does it make whether I shave or not? It’s a form of discrimination. As much as I would like to whistle Euroleague, I can’t accept that,” said the Munich native, explaining his decision. From then on, he did not play in Europe’s highest basketball club league.

Barth called in lawyers and threatened to go public with the league. The German says he is now no longer concerned about himself, but that such incidents will no longer occur in the future. “Whether the organisation really changes, we have to see. But it is important that the public knows about this process,” described Barth, who has officiated more than 500 games in the Bundesliga.