The New Jersey Civil Rights Division will investigate a white referee who forced a high school wrestler to cut off his dreadlocks or forfeit a match

SNJ TodayBuena Regional High School wrestler Andrew Johnson getting his hair cut.
  • The New Jersey Civil Rights Division announced Saturday it will investigate an incident in which a white referee forced a black high school wrestler to cut off his dreadlocks or forfeit a match.
  • The referee, Alan Maloney, will not oversee any sporting events until the state’s investigation and a separate investigation by the athletic association are complete.
  • This comes after video of the incident went viral on social media and a wide array of prominent voices, including racial justice advocates and professional athletes, condemned Johnson’s treatment.

The New Jersey Civil Rights Division will investigate an incident in which a white referee forced a black high school wrestler to cut off his dreadlocks or forfeit a match, the state’s athletic association announced on Saturday.

Buena Regional High School wrestler Andrew Johnson was told by official Alan Maloney that he couldn’t wear a hair cover during the meet at Oakcrest High School. In video of the incident, Johnson, a junior, looked visibly upset as an athletic trainer cut his hair, and went on to win the match in overtime.

As the video went viral on social media, a wide array of prominent voices, including professional athletes and racial justice advocates, spoke out against Johnson’s treatment, calling the incident an example of racial prejudice. Activist Shaun King called it “disgusting and heartbreaking.”


Read more: A high school wrestler was forced to cut off his dreadlocks before a match, and people say it’s discrimination

Maloney will not oversee any sporting events until the state’s investigation, and a separate investigation by the athletic association, is completed, the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association said in its statement.

“As an African-American and parent – as well as a former educator, coach, official and athlete – I clearly understand the issues at play, and probably better than most,” Larry White, the association’s executive director, wrote in a statement. “The NJSIAA takes this matter very seriously, and I ask that everyone respect the investigatory process related to all parties involved.”

This isn’t the first time Maloney has been accused of racial bias. In 2016, the wrestling official used a racist slur toward another referee in an argument over homemade wine at a private gathering with other officials, according to The Courier Post.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, a Democrat, also spoke out on Saturday, tweeting that he was “deeply disturbed” by the incident.

“No student should have to needlessly choose between his or her identity & playing sports,” Murphy tweeted.

Kelly McLaughlin contributed to this report.

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