March 19, 2019
The New Jersey referee who came under fire for ordering a high school wrestler to cut his dreadlocks last December reportedly filed a legal claim earlier this month, and could sue for defamation of character.
Alan Maloney, the referee, has been barred from officiating meets pending investigations by both the New Jersey State Interscholastic Association and the New Jersey Division of Civil Rights, according to the Courier Post.
The tort his attorney has filed preserves Maloney’s right to sue a dozen possible defendants, including Buena Regional School District, the NJSIA, and Buena wrestling coach George Maxwell, among others, the Courier Post reported.
In the incident, 16-year-old wrestler Andrew Johnson of Buena Regional High School was told by Maloney he had to cut his hair or he would forfeit the match.
Video of the interaction went viral on Dec. 20:
Epitome of a team player ⬇️— Mike Frankel (@MikeFrankelJSZ) December 20, 2018
A referee wouldn't allow Andrew Johnson of Buena @brhschiefs to wrestle with a cover over his dreadlocks. It was either an impromptu haircut, or a forfeit. Johnson chose the haircut, then won by sudden victory in OT to help spark Buena to a win. pic.twitter.com/f6JidKNKoI
NJ.com reported in December that Maloney has a “racist history”, and the national reaction to Maloney ordering Johnson to cut his hair was filled with accusations of racism.
According to wrestling regulations in New Jersey, an approved hair covering is to be presented at weigh in before a match begins. The video posted to social media shows Johnson getting his hair clipped off, then immediately stepping on to the mat.
At the time, TMZ Sports reported that Johnson was wearing a cover, but Maloney told him it was insufficient. It was unclear if Maloney previously approved the hair cover during the weigh in or what had been insufficient about the cover.
Johnson’s attorney, Dominic A. Speziali, said the idea of Maloney filing a claim as a victim was “outright absurd”, according to the Courier Post.