The New Jersey high school wrestling referee who forced a student to cut off his dreadlocks before competing, has been handed a two-year suspension.
Alan Maloney, the ref who forced Buena Regional High School wrestler Andrew Johnson to shear his hair before being allowed to compete in December of 2018, was investigated and found at fault by the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association, TMZ reported.
“Student athletes should be able to compete with each other on a level playing field,” Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said in a statement.
“Racial discrimination in the enforcement of the rules of any sport is inconsistent with the spirit of fair play,” Grewal added. “The Division on Civil Rights’ action today makes it less likely that any student athlete will have to endure discrimination that not only undermines fair competition but also violates our state laws.”
“This is vindication,” said the student’s attorney Dominic Speziali. “This entire incident happened based on nothing he did wrong.”
Video taken of the incident in 2018 went viral.
Epitome of a team player ⬇️
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
— Mike Frankel (@MikeFrankelJSZ) December 20, 2018
The director for the state’s Division on Civil Rights, Rachel Wainer Apter, called the referee’s actions “discrimination” and “anti-black racism.”
“This guidance makes clear that employers, housing providers and places of public accommodation cannot police Black hair,” Wainer said. “And the [decision] will ensure that high school athletes across the State can focus on being their best, not worrying that their hair will subject them to differential treatment based on race.”
Referee Maloney has maintained that all he did was enforce state athletic rules. Maloney also says he is mulling a defamation lawsuit.
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston.