Former Chattanooga coach fired over Stacey Abrams tweet suing school, claiming First Amendment violation

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Former Chattanooga offensive line coach Chris Malone is suing his former employer, claiming he was wrongly forced to resign for a tweet that criticized the politician and activist Stacey Abrams.

"UTC is going to get acquainted with the First Amendment," Doug Churdar, Malone's attorney, said in a statement announcing the suit. "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."

"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 is good, still not governor!" Malone tweeted on the night of January 5, when it became apparent the Democrats would win both Georgia Senate runoff elections. The tweet was deleted within 30 minutes and he was fired 48 hours.

“Last night, a totally inappropriate social media post by a member of our football staff was brought to my attention. The entire post was appalling. The sentiments in that post do not represent the values of our football program, our Athletics department or our University,” AD Mark Wharton said at the time. “With that said, effective immediately, that individual is no longer a part of the program.”

Malone now says was tweeting as a private citizen and not as a spokesman for Chattanooga football.

“Calling politicians liars and cheaters is a proud American tradition," Churdar, a Greenville, S.C., based personal injury and car accident lawyer, said in the release. "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.”

Murray named Chattanooga president Steve Angle, Wharton and head coach Rusty Wright as defendants in the suit, where he seeks reinstatement with backpay, damages, declaratory relief, plus expenses, court costs and attorney fees.

"I've coached more than 20 years, including at an HBCU school," Malone said in the release. "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."

In addition to Chattanooga, Malone coached at Virginia Tech, VMI, James Madison, UMass, Old Dominion, Virginia State and Fork Union Military Academy.

Chattanooga offered no comment on the lawsuit to the Chattanooga Times Free Press.

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