Referee with racist history forces black high school wrestler to cut off dreadlocks
Buena High School wrestler Andrew Johnson was preparing to compete against his opponent from Oakcrest High School during a dual meet in New Jersey when the referee gave him an ultimatum: cut off his dreadlocks, or forfeit the match. It is not clear why Johnson was not allowed to wear a cover over his dreadlocks.
The 120-pound division match was important, as the result would affect the battle for the Cape Atlantic League national championship. Johnson wanted to wrestle, so he chose the haircut. In a video shared on Twitter by South New Jersey News reporter Mike Frankel, an athletic trainer shears off Johnson's dreadlocks with a scissors on the mat. He then competed, and won the contest by sudden victory in overtime.
The referee has been identified as Alan Maloney, who is white, and has a history of racist behavior, according to New Jersey.com. During a social gathering with officials at a Jersey Shore condo in March 2016, he reportedly got into a heated argument over homemade wine. He called another official, Preston Hamilton, who is black, a racial slur, prompting Hamilton to slam Maloney to the ground.
The video of Thursday's incident sparked outrage on Twitter. "This is child abuse. Someone should have stepped in here. Really shows how you can get people to go along with anything if you have an air of authority," wrote person. "No win is more valuable than a kid's dignity and identity," added another. A third commented, "His coaches and teammates should’ve been even bigger “team players” by walking out of the arena after the referee told this kid he couldn’t compete with his hairstyle. He may have took one for the team but look how dejected he looks by this degrading ordeal, even after 'victory.'"
Also, some people took issue with Mike Frankel's tone-deaf description of the video, where he remarked, "Epitome of a team player." "If you view black bodies enduring humiliation as a feel-good story, then you have some soul-searching to do, Mr. Frankel," commented one person. Another replied, "A horrific narration of a racially charged humiliation of a kid, this is unacceptable journalism, to say the least." "This is not a 'team player' this is a victim of discrimination," added a third.
Activist and Intercept columnist Shaun King got wind of the story and promoted it to his 1.1 million followers on Twitter. He claims he spoke to parents of wrestlers at the high school, who confirmed that the referee in question has been "awful for generations." Many critics are calling for Maloney to be punished, but as of this writing, no school officials have commented on the issue.
Again, it is not known why Johnson was forced to cut off his dreadlocks, when he could have worn a cover. Earlier this year, New Jersey began offering girls' wrestling as a varsity sport, which means more students with long hair have been competing, and did not have to get an unwanted haircut on the mat.