Controversial ref banned from district matches
School officials in southern New Jersey convened for an emergency board meeting Wednesday in Buena Township after video of a high school athlete forced to shear off his dreadlocks in order to compete in his wrestling match went viral and sparked widespread backlash online.
Wrestling referee Alan Maloney, who ordered student-athlete Andrew Johnson to get the impromptu haircut, has been pulled from officiating any more wrestling matches, reported WPVI TV station reporter Annie McCormick.
“He’s done working with our district,” Buena Regional School District Superintendent David Cappuccio said of Maloney.
McCormick also reported that the district has asked the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association not to use the ref for any upcoming match.
Dominic Speziali, John- son’s attorney, says the teen’s family is defending the team’s coach and trainer but questioning why administrators present at the match refused to get involved. Speziali asserted the Johnson family wants to “resolve the matter” and “return to normalcy.”
Johnson, 16, had been wearing a cover to conceal his dreadlocks at the time, but Maloney told him he would have to chop off his dreads if he wanted to compete in his scheduled match. He would go on to win in overtime, but remained visibly distraught despite the victory.
Video shared by an SNJ Today reporter on Twitter was quick to spread across social media, with users condemning the incident as “racist” and “humiliating.”
Larry White, executive director of the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association, said in a statement that the matter had been referred to state authorities for investigation.
“The NJSIAA will be working with the New Jersey Division on civil rights, providing all requested information,” he said.
White added that Maloney, who has previously been accused of racism, will not be assigned to additional matches “until this matter has been reviewed more thoroughly.”
The New Jersey Attorney General on Friday confirmed its civil rights division opened an investigation into the matter as part of a 2013 agreement with the NJSIAA “to address potential bias in high school sports.”
Maloney previously sparked backlash after he allegedly used a racial slur during a night out in 2016 with fellow sports officials.
Speziali, in a statement released earlier this week, questioned why Maloney was allowed to continue as a referee after the incident two years ago.
“As this matter is further investigated, the family wants to be clear that they are supportive of Andrew’s coaches and the team’s athletic trainer,” he said. “The blame here rests primarily with the referee and those that permitted him to continue in that role despite clear evidence of what should be a disqualifying racerelated transgression.”