High school wrestler Andrew Johnson has been growing out his dreadlocks for quite some time. He has wrestled for a while with the dreadlocks and without controversy, until recently. When Johnson walked out onto the mat to compete this week, he was informed by referee Alan Maloney, who supposedly has a history of alleged racist behavior, that he had to cut his dreadlocks or else forfeit his match during a dual meet between Buena Regional High School in New Jersey and Oakcrest High School.
Johnson, who wrestles at 120 pounds, stood solemnly on the mat, his head dropped down, as a person snips away at his dreadlocks with scissors, reported SNJ Today News, per NJ.com. The referee can be seen in the video observing the dramatic ordeal. His teammates kept approaching him during the presumably emotionally painful process to show support for their friend.
Maloney isn’t a stranger to racial incidents. According to social media posts and NJ Advance Media staff writers, Maloney used a racial slur in public at a social gathering of athletic officials in March 2016. Maloney, who is Caucasian, used the racial slur during an argument regarding homemade wine made at a Jersey Shore condo where athletic officials gathered following a youth tournament in Wildwood.
Maloney alleged jabbed another official, Preston Hamilton, who is black, in the chest, reported MSN News. Hamilton then slammed Maloney to the ground over the remark, SNJ Today News shared.
Epitome of a team player ⬇️— Mike Frankel (@MikeFrankelSNJ) December 20, 2018
A referee wouldn't allow Andrew Johnson of Buena @brhschiefs to wrestle with a cover over his dreadlocks. It was either an impromptu haircut, or a forfeit. Johnson chose the haircut, then won by sudden victory in OT to help spark Buena to a win. pic.twitter.com/f6JidKNKoI
After Hamilton reported the incident, Maloney agreed to participate in sensitivity training and an alcohol awareness program, because he said he didn’t remember the altercation due to excessive drinking. Maloney was supposed to be suspended for one year for the use of the racial slur and Hamilton would receive the same suspension for assaulting Maloney, MSN News stated. However, both officials appealed their suspensions, which were overturned.
Video of the incident posted to Twitter by Mike Frankel of SNJ Today News sparked outrage on social media. People called for Maloney to be disciplined or fired.
White Ref Forces Black High School Wrestler to Cut Dreadlocks https://t.co/QtfZ9dbyZW— TMZ Sports (@TMZ_Sports) December 21, 2018
Many people wondered why Johnson was told he had to cut his hair instead of using a hair wrap to cover his hair like many wrestlers with long hair do, especially females who wrestle. But Johnson was indeed wearing a hair wrap before the referee made his decision. In fact, many female wrestlers are encouraged to braid their hair first, then secure it under the hair wrap before competing.
According to an update provided by Mike Frankel with his tweet, Johnson’s coaches argued with the referee about his decision for several minutes until Maloney started the injury time clock. At that time, the wrestler was forced to decide what to do. He was already wearing a hair cap, but then removed it and agreed to have his hair cut.
New Jersey was the first state in the mid-Atlantic and the 14th in the country to offer girls’ wrestling as an official varsity sport. Therefore, more wrestlers are wearing hair wraps, SNJ Today News noted.
Johnson went on to beat his opponent with a sudden takedown. His school then won the match, 41–24.