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Referee Who Made Wrestler Cut Locs Receives Two-Season Suspension

Referee Alan Maloney is suspended after forcing high school wrestler Andrew Johnson to cut his locs before competing in a match.
By Tanya A. Christian · September 20, 2019

The referee who made national headlines nearly two years ago for ordering a young wrestler to cut his locs or forfeit a match, has been suspended by the state for two seasons. According to the Associated Press, the ruling, which came down on Wednesday, also included mandatory bias training for all referees and coaches involved in high-school level athletic programs.

Referee Alan Maloney set social media ablaze when a video of a school official cutting Andrew Johnson’s locs at the direction of the ref was posted to Twitter. A subsequent investigation into the incident by the state’s Division on Civil Rights determined that Johnson’s hair required a hair covering according to governing rules, but when one could not be located, Maloney gave Johnson an ultimatum. 

The report, according to the AP, also concluded that various officials applied the governing rules to traditionally Black hairstyles regardless of length. Wednesday’s ruling seeks to eliminate biased interpretations “that allowed wrestling officials to determine that traditionally Black hairstyles were ‘unnatural’ or to subject wrestlers with traditionally Black hairstyles to differential treatment as to when a hair cover was required.”

New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association will provide in-person training to wrestling officials within the state prior to the start of the season. By the end of the 2020-2021 school year, all high-school officials will receive implicit bias training with a requirement to give trainings to coaches, trainers and administrators.

In an email obtained by the AP, Johnson family attorney Dominic Speziali expressed satisfaction with the ruling and said, “we hope that no athlete going forward will be forced to sacrifice their identity for the opportunity to compete.”