A video from a New Jersey school district went viral last week depicting a high school wrestler being forced to cut his dreadlocks or forfeit the match. Now after an emergency meeting on Wednesday, New Jersey School District will skip events reffed by the man who is responsible.
According to CNN, the Buena Regional Board of Education held an emergency meeting to discuss referee Alan Maloney’s unlawful demands that forced 16-year-old Andrew Johnson to cut off his hair. While Johnson went on to win the match despite the humiliating experience, he and his family are seeking justice.
“We have viewed the video footage that has gone viral and are deeply troubled by the embarrassment and humiliation our young student athlete endured,” said David C. Cappuccio Jr., superintendent of the Buena Regional School District. “District administration has been working diligently around the clock for the past several days collecting as much info as possible about the sequence of events occurring the past December 19.”
According to the National Federation of State High School Association’s wrestling rulebook, a wrestler’s hair cannot fall below the top of a shirt collar in the back, below his earlobes on the sides, or below his eyebrows. If it is longer than the rule allows, the wrestler has to braid his hair or hide it beneath a hear cover attached to his ear guards, the rulebook states.
During the incident, the referee allegedly told Johnson his hair and headgear were not in compliance with league regulations. When Johnson told the referee he could push his hair back, the referee refused because his hair “wasn’t in its natural state,” forcing an ultimatum upon him—cut the locks or forfeit the game.
Since the referee isn’t an employee of the district, the board has no control over whether or not he will be able to continue to work as a wrestling official. However, they have decided to inform the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) that “the school district and its athletic teams will not compete in any contest officiated by this referee from this point forward.”
The attorney for Johnson’s family said during the meeting that Andrew and his family are supportive of the coaching staff and the trainer who cut his hair.
“The blame here is on the referee,” Speziali said. “It’s still not clear to me why that had to happen, in that manner to Andrew.”
Speziali also mentioned that Johnson will not be attending the Buena Regional High School wrestling team’s scheduled match for Thursday.