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A New Jersey high schooler was reportedly given an ultimatum at a wrestling match this week: Either cut off your dreadlocks or forfeit the match.
So Andrew Johnson, who is a student at Buena Regional High School, had a quick haircut in the gym before going on to win his match in overtime, as SNJ Today News’ Mike Frankel explained on Twitter.
Frankel posted a video of the wrestler getting his dreads cut off Thursday — and the internet was outraged.
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
“There’s nothing ‘feel good’ about a Black student being targeted because of how he chooses to wear his hair,” one person commented. “I hope this child’s parents sue the pants off of these coaches, the referee, and the league.”
“Why don’t you call this for what it really is and that is 100% discrimination. What a shameful act by the ref,” another wrote.
Disgusting and heartbreaking. A referee known for his racism, Alan Maloney (google him), made high school wrestler Andrew Johnson cut off his dreads or lose the match. They were covered and gave him no advantage. So he cut them off. He won the match. Never should’ve been allowed. pic.twitter.com/ChMXPBzHPk
— Shaun King (@shaunking) December 21, 2018
Andrew Johnson’s teammates and coaches protesting on his behalf would have been a true reflection of “team” and dignity, @MikeFrankelSNJ. Please discontinue framing this as a “good” story. It’s actually a reflection of bias and acquiescence to bias. https://t.co/6wXkuFTCVP
— Be A King (@BerniceKing) December 21, 2018
It later came out that the New Jersey ref who gave Johnson the ultimatum, identified as Alan Maloney, has been accused of discrimination in the past. The Courier-Post reported in 2016 that a black referee accused Maloney of calling him the N-word. Maloney told the local paper at the time that he didn’t remember using the racial slur but said he believed witnesses who backed up the other ref’s story.
“You know, people do make mistakes and I apologized,” Maloney told The Courier-Post at the time. “I really don’t think this should go any further than it’s gone anyhow.”
The New Jersey Wrestling Officials Association ultimately decided it didn’t have the authority to reprimand Maloney for the 2016 incident. But people are demanding that he be punished for allegedly making a high schooler cut his hair.
Civil rights activist Shaun King tweeted on Friday that parents from all over the state had emailed him about Maloney’s “bigotry.”
“Shame on New Jersey for allowing him to stay in this profession,” he wrote.
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