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December 21, 2018

Buena School District won't compete in events officiated by ref who forced high school wrestler to cut dreadlocks

A viral video posted to social media shows the student athlete getting his hair sheared off before he was allowed to step onto the mat

Controversy Racism
Buena High School Photo courtesy/Google Maps

A wrestler from Buena High School in Atlantic County was forced to cut off his dreadlocks by a referee or forfeit his match.

UPDATED 12/27 7:39 a.m.

After Wednesday's emergency meeting held by the Buena Regional Board of Education, Superintendent David C. Cappuccio Jr. announced the district would shun the wrestling referee, previously identified as Alan Maloney, who forced a Buena Regional High School wrestler to cut off his dreadlock before participating in a recent match..

According to CNN, Cappuccio said his "school district and its athletic teams will not compete in any contest officiated by this referee from this point forward."

UPDATED 12/26 12:30 p.m. 

Buena Regional School Distict's board of education will hold an unscheduled meeting Wednesday, Dec. 26 to discuss "personnel matters," stemming from an incident last week when the referee at a high school wrestling match required a student to cut off his dreadlocks before a match.

Also, New Jersey's athletic association has said the referee involved won't be assigned to any matches until the incident is reviewed, and according to WPVI, the New Jersey State Attorney General's Office is now also looking into the incident.

On Wednesday, wrestler Andrew Johnson's parents told CNN through a lawyer that the referee in question was late to the meet and didn't question their son's hair during his initial evaluation. 

In a full statement, the Johnson family called the referee's conduct "more egregious as additional information comes to light."

At a high school wrestling match Thursday in New Jersey, a referee forced a student athlete to cut his dreadlocks off or forfeit a match.

Video of the 16-year-old wrestler, Andrew Johnson, of Buena Regional High School in Atlantic County, getting his dreadlocks chopped off right beside the mat sparked national outrage on social media. reported the referee is longtime officiate Alan Maloney, who allegedly has a "racist history." On one occasion, the Courier-Post reported Maloney, who is white, allegedly used a racial slur at a social gathering with other officiates. Maloney told the Courier-Post he "does not remember using the word at all."

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 appears to show Johnson getting his hair sheered off, then immediately stepping on to the mat. 

TMZ Sports reported that Johnson was wearing a cover, but Maloney told him it was insufficient. It's unclear if Maloney previously approved the hair cover during the weigh in or what was insufficient about the cover.

In a list from the National Federation of State High School Associations called "Wrestling Rules Interpretations," a question poses: "Does braided hair that is non-abrasive need to be contained in a legal hair cover?" The list rules that if it's "longer than allowed by rule, then it must be contained in a legal hair cover."

A request for comment from the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association was not immediately answered Friday afternoon. We'll update this story when we hear back.

In October, New Jersey was the first state in the Northeast to offer girls wrestling — an indicator that hair coverings would be written in to the rule books, especially this season. 

This is an ongoing story. Check back for updates.

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