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.”

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