A white referee is under fire after he forced a high school wrestler from New Jersey to cut off his dreadlocks or forfeit a match last week. Andrew Johnson, a wrestler at Buena Regional High School, was wearing a cover over his dreadlocks, SNJ Today News reported.
Johnson opted to cut his hair and compete. He went on to win the match by takedown. His school defeated Oakcrest High School 41-24.
Video of the incident shows a trainer cutting his dreadlocks as people at the gymnasium watched.
The New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association said in a statement Friday that it was investigating the incident and waiting for an official report from the referee, who local media identified as Alan Maloney.
Activists on social media have since called for Maloney to be fired. Shaun King, an activist and columnist for The Intercept, called the incident “disgusting and heartbreaking” on Twitter.
The New Jersey chapter of the ACLU tweeted: “This is not about hair. This is about race.”
“How many different ways will people try to exclude Black people from public life without having to declare their bigotry? We’re so sorry this happened to you, Andrew. This was discrimination, and it’s not okay.”
In 2016, Maloney was accused of calling Preston Hamilton, a black referee, the N-word at a social gathering. Hamilton then slammed Maloney to the ground. Both referees were suspended for the incident, but they both won an appeal and were reinstated, the Courier Post reported.
Maloney told the publication he didn’t remember the incident but said he believed the accounts of eyewitnesses.