The New Jersey high school wrestler who was forced to choose between cutting his dreadlocks and forfeiting a match returned to the mat on Saturday for the first time since the incident.
Andrew Johnson, a junior at Buena High School, didn’t win his match Saturday, but according to NJ.com he wrestled with his (now shorter) dreadlocks uncovered. During a tournament nearly three weeks ago, referee Alan Maloney decided that Johnson’s dreadlocks were not in compliance with the rules and forced Johnson to decide between forfeiting the match or submitting to a mat-side haircut.
Johnson had a head covering that he had previously used during wrestling matches and was within the rules, but that wasn’t enough for Maloney, who still forced him to choose between cutting off his dreadlocks or costing his team points with a forfeit. Johnson chose the haircut, which was caught on video and quickly 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 (@MikeFrankelSNJ) December 20, 2018
He won the match and the tournament for Buena, but the video sparked outrage and debate. Some believed that Maloney forcing Johnson to get a haircut or forfeit was racially motivated, since Johnson had a hair covering that had been acceptable at previous matches. That wasn’t helped when Maloney’s alleged history of racist behavior was uncovered, which reportedly includes using a racial slur at a gathering of fellow referees in 2016.
Buena High School announced a week after the Oakcrest tournament that it would boycott all future matches refereed by Maloney. A spokesman for the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association said that Maloney would not be assigned to referee any future matches anywhere until further notice. According to NJ.com, the Attorney General’s Division of Civil Rights Office is investigating the matter.
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