Video of Buena Regional High School wrestler Andrew Johnson being forced to cut his hair in order to participate in a New Jersey wrestling competition has caused backlash online due to what many are considering discrimination.
According to reports, referee Alan Maloney made Johnson choose between cutting his dreadlocks or forfeiting his match when Johnson’s Buena High School wrestling team took on Oakcrest High School on Wednesday, December 19.
The National Federation of State High School Associations says that Maloney was upholding a rule that is in place to ensure that all equipment worn on the mat, including hair coverings, fits “snug” to a wrestler’s body. Maloney did not believe that Johnson’s dreads “qualified” as snug and gave him the ultimatum.
Johnson ultimately opted to cut his hair before securing a victory via sudden taken, helping Buena High School defeat Oakcrest High School by a score of 41–24.
The video was posted to Twitter by Mike Frankel, the Sports Director of SNJ Today News, calling Johnson the “epitome of a team player”:
“A referee wouldn’t allow Andrew Johnson of Buena Regional High School 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.”
This is not the first time that referee Alan Maloney has been involved in a potentially racist incident, as he was accused of directing a racial slur at another referee in 2016.
According to the Courier Post, Maloney allegedly poked fellow referee Preston Hamilton in the chest and called him a racial slur, which resulted in him Hamilton “slamming” Maloney to the ground.
The video of Johnson being forced to cut his hair quickly went viral, causing backlash all across the internet. Taylor Rooks of Bleacher Report tweeted the Maloney ” should be ashamed. Social media activist Shaun King labeled the video “disgusting and heartbreaking.”
ESPN anchor Keith Olbermann suggested that Maloney should be fired and banned, while the ACLU of New Jersey labeled Maloney’s actions as discrimination.