BUENA, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — A haircut controversy is brewing in New Jersey after a referee told a high school wrestler that he couldn’t participate in a match unless he cut off his dreadlocks.
Now, the incident is under investigation as the referee faces accusations of racism.
Video taken on Wednesday of the wrestler’s choice to avoid forfeiting the match has since gone viral. It shows Buena Regional High School student Andrew Johnson stoically submitting to the impromptu haircut.
He went on to win his match, but appeared eager to get away from the referee during an unusually short raising of his arm to signify victory.
CBS2 was sent the rules of the match, which state:
- hair shall not extend below the top of a shirt collar
- hair shall not extend below earlobe level
- hair shall not extend below the eyebrows
The stipulations indicate that if Johnson did not cut his hair and lacked the right equipment to keep his hair back, the referee may have been correct. A letter from Schools Superintendent David Cappuccio states in part, “The student athlete made the decision to cut his hair… at that moment… to avoid forfeiture. No school/district staff member influenced the student into making this decision.”
The New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association confirmed they’re investigating the incident.
“Given the degree of attention being focused on this matter, the NJSIAA will recommend to chapter officials that the referee in question not be assigned to any event until this matter has been reviewed more thoroughly,” they said in a statement sent to CBS2.
Residents say they’re hoping for a more thorough investigation, and the wrestler himself has since kept a low profile.