Referee who told NJ high school wrestler to cut his dreadlocks has been suspended

Antionette Lee
September 18, 2019 - 8:10 pm
Buena high school wrestler Andrew Johnson wrestles Lower Cape May's Bobby O'Brien at 126 lb. at Buena Regional High School on Wednesday, January 17.

Justin Odendhal/Courier Post via USA TODAY NETWORK

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — The referee who told a high school wrestler from Atlantic County to cut his hair or forfeit a match has been suspended by the state for two seasons.

Attorney General Gurbir Grewal announced on Wednesday that the state investigation has ended with an agreement between the Division of Civil Rights and the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association.  

In addition to referee Alan Maloney being suspended, state officials announced mandatory bias training for all referees and staff involved in high school athletics across the Garden State.

After an investigation by the Division of Civil Rights, officials also released a new rulebook called “Guidance on Race Discrimination Based on Hairstyle," which explains that treating people differently due to their hairstyle may violate the state’s anti-discrimination laws.

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“Student athletes should be able to compete with each other on a level playing field. Racial discrimination in the enforcement of the rules of any sport is inconsistent with the spirit of fair play," Grewal said in a statement. 

Video of the wrestling match at Buena Regional High School last December quickly went viral. The video showed Andrew Johnson, who is black, wearing a hair cover. But Maloney, who is white, told Johnson that he had to cut his hair or forfeit the match.

The wrestler stood stoic as a trainer cut his hair with scissors in the middle of the gym. Johnson went on to win that match.

Maloney was not allowed to officiate any matches during the investigation.