What to Know
- Wrestling referee suspended for two seasons after telling a high school wrestler to cut his dreadlocks or forfeit a match
- High school sports officials and staffs will undergo mandatory implicit bias training going forward
- Civil rights group says discrimination based on hairstyle could violate New New Jersey state law
A referee who was heavily critized for telling a New Jersey high school wrestler to cut his dreadlocks or forfeit his match has been suspended for two seasons following an official investigation.
The state Division on Civil Rights and the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association announced the sanction Wednesday as well as manditory implicit bias training for high school sports officials and staff. NJSIAA had benched Alan Maloney from officiating while the investigation proceeded "to avoid disruption of events for student athletes."
In late December 2018, Andrew Johnson, a black high school wrestler in Atlantic County, was forced by Maloney to either cut his dreadlocks or forfeit a wrestling match. With mere seconds to think about the decision, Johnson chose the haircut. The incident was caught on video and went viral sparking community outrage.
The Division on Civil Rights issued a new clarifying guidance on Wednesday, stating that "policies that ban, limit, or restrict hairstyles closely associated with being Black or having Black ancestry - including twists and locs - may violate New Jersey law."
“As a result of the investigation, those rules have changed. We are confident that those changes, together with the training programs NJSIAA will be developing in collaboration with DCR, will ensure that a situation like this does not happen in the future," NJSIAA Executive Director Larry White said in a statement.
Wrestlers are allowed to wear legal hair covers during matches, according to wrestling rules set by the National Federation of State High School Associations. If a wrestler's hair in its natural state extends below the earlobe on the sides or touches the top of a normal shirt, it's required to be secured in a hair cover.
In March, Maloney filed notice that he planned to sue for defamation and emotional distress.
News 4 could not immediately reach Maloney's attorney for comment.