LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — A judge in Kentucky has dismissed a college basketball referee's lawsuit against a radio network, saying the station's criticism is protected by the First Amendment.

Veteran official John Higgins sued Kentucky Sports Radio, host Matt Jones and editor Drew Franklin, saying their postgame criticism of his officiating in Kentucky's 2017 NCAA Tournament loss to North Carolina resulted in harassment of him and his family. He said he received death threats by phone and that his roofing business was disrupted by false negative reviews online.

U.S. District Judge Joseph M. Hood ruled Wednesday to dismiss the suit while noting the plaintiffs' frustration "is understandable and their damages are real." Jones tweeted he was "pleased" with the ruling.

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