People around the world were furious when a Caucasian referee forced a young black wrestler to either chop off his dreadlocks or forfeit his match. Sixteen-year-old Andrew Johnson was wearing a hair cap, which he had always worn without incident before.
According to the Courier Post, Johnson’s covering was barred that night because it was not attached to headgear, which supposedly is now required by a fairly recent rule change.
The referee, later identified as Alan Maloney, gave the 120-pound wrestler 90 seconds to decide what to do. Then, the young man chose to stand on the mat in front of everyone while an athletic trainer cut his hair with scissors, his head dropped down in what can only be imagined as humiliation and sadness.
Buena School District Superintendent David Cappuccio reviewed the video captured by a reporter and shared on Twitter, which sparked the furor. He called an emergency board meeting at which time school officials decided that “the school district and its athletic teams will not compete in any contest officiated by this referee from this point forward,” Cappuccio informed the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association, as reported by CNN.
“We have viewed the video footage that has gone viral and are deeply troubled by the embarrassment and humiliation our young student athlete endured,” Cappuccio said. “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 this past December 19.”
According to a statement made by Cappuccio that was posted on the district’s website, the wrestling referee is not employed by Buena schools, so he cannot fire him per se. But the groups that assign referees have said they will not assign him any matches until further notice, PEOPLE reported.
Johnson’s family has hired an attorney, Dominic Speziali, who spoke on behalf of the family with CNN.
“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 released a statement this week on behalf of the Johnson family. It explained that the referee arrived late to the match and missed weigh-ins, which is when any rule violations are identified. When the teen was finally evaluated, no concerns were expressed about the length of his hair at that time.
When Andrew asked if he could push his hair back instead of cutting it, which he did the previous weekend at a wrestling tournament, the referee refused because “it wasn’t in its natural state,” Speziali said.
“As the trainer is cutting Andrew’s hair in the middle of the gym, the referee is behind them directing her to keep cutting until he was satisfied with the length,” Speziali said.
According to CNN, the New Jersey attorney general’s civil rights division is investigating.
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