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N.J. referee who forced wrestler to cut dreadlocks plans lawsuit

March 20, 2019 / Athletic AdministrationWrestling
The New Jersey referee who forced a high school wrestler to choose between cutting his dreadlocks or forfeiting plans to sue for defamation, according to reports.

The Inquirer reports that referee Alan Maloney filed a legal claim alleging defamation of character and emotional distress. The New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) and Buena School District, where wrestler Andrew Johnson attends school, are named as possible defendants. Maloney is seeking $100,000 in damages.

In December, Maloney forced Johnson to cut his dreadlocks or forfeit his match, an incident that was caught on video and widely circulated on social media. Johnson chose to cut his hair, but was visibly upset after beating his opponent.

After the match, Buena School District said it would no longer use Maloney to referee any of its meets, and the NJSIAA launched an investigation. Maloney insists he correctly applied the rules, which state: “If an individual has hair longer than allowed it must be contained in a legal hair cover that is attached to the ear guards. The wrestler opting to wear a legal hair cover must wear it to the weigh-in procedure …”

Johnson was not given the option to wear a head cover, his family said. They also said that the referee was late to weigh-ins, where any rules infraction could have been identified and remedied well before Johnson’s match.

The NJSIAA has not announced the results of its investigation, and the Division of Civil Rights is conducting its own probe, according to The Inquirer.

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