Referee who forced wrestler to cut dreadlocks banned 2 years

September 19, 2019 / Athletic AdministrationWrestling
The referee who in 2018 forced a New Jersey high school wrestler to either cut his dreadlocks or forfeit a match has been suspended for two years, the state announced Wednesday.

The decision concludes a near nine-month investigation by the state’s Division on Civil Rights and the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA). The referee, Alan Maloney, also must complete implicit bias training before he’s eligible for reinstatement.

In December 2018, Maloney forced Buena High School wrestler Andrew 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 winning his match.

In the aftermath, Buena School District said it would no longer use Maloney to referee any of its meets, and the NJSIAA launched an investigation. Maloney insisted that he correctly applied the rules regarding hair length. Three months later, he filed notice that he planned to sue for defamation and emotional distress.

As part of the agreement, the NJSIAA must mandate implicit bias training for all high school referees, coaches and athletic directors — that includes hair discrimination training. The Division on Civil Rights has issued a new “Guidance on Race Discrimination Based on Hairstyle,” explaining that treating people differently due to their hairstyle could violate anti-discrimination laws.

The implicit bias training must be completed statewide by the end of the 2020-21 school year.

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