ACLU: Ref Failed To Accommodate Deaf Wrestler In Title Match


      Two civil rights organizations have sent a demand letter to the NSAA, Nebraska State Activities Association, on behalf of Gering wrestler Paul Ruff, who is deaf and lost last year’s state title on a controversial referee’s call related to his hearing issues.

     The letter by the ACLU of Nebraska and the National Association of the Deaf says the NSAA violated the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act. It’s seen as laying the groundwork for a potential lawsuit.

     Ruff lost the championship match 1-0 on caution points, but said he didn’t know the referee had cautioned him because he relies on reading lips and the referee never lowered his mask when giving the verbal warnings. 

      After the initial controversy the NSAA agreed to hold cultural competency classes for staff and referees, but let stand the match results. The demand letter says the Ruff family isn’t satisfied. 

     They feel the NSAA discriminated against him by failing to provide reasonable modifications during the match and by dismissing the appeals of the decision at the arena immediately after the match. 

      The letter gives the NSAA until Jan 18 to respond to its request for a public apology, revisions to the group’s bylaws, mandatory annual awareness training, and reasonable compensatory damages to the Ruffs. They also want the referee disciplined.