TRENTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — The New Jersey referee accused of forcing a black wrestler to cut his dreadlocks or forfeit a match has been suspended.
High school sports official Alan Maloney has been suspended for two years following the controversial decision in December 2018. Video taken at the sports event shows Buena Regional High School wrestler Andrew Johnson getting his hair cut off by another official before his match.
Maloney, who is white, told Johnson, who identifies as multiracial, that he had to cut his hair or forfeit the match last year.
New Jersey officials also announced mandatory bias training for all referees and coaches involved in high school athletics.
The state Division on Civil Rights investigation found that Maloney determined that Johnson required a hair covering and gave Johnson the choice of cutting his hair or forfeiting after no covering could be located that satisfied rules governing long hair.
Johnson 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 report concluded, however, that various New Jersey wrestling officials had interpreted the rule to apply to various traditionally black hair styles regardless of length.
The agreement between the civil rights office and the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association announced Wednesday seeks to eliminate interpretations of the rule “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.”
As part of Wednesday’s agreement, the athletic association will provide in-person training to all wrestling officials in the state before the start of the season to emphasize that the rule in question is based on hair length, not hair style.
By the end of the 2020-2021 school year, the association will provide implicit bias training to all high school officials and require schools to provide similar training to administrators, coaches and trainers.
Maloney had been barred from officiating while the investigation proceeded. In March, he filed notice that he planned to sue for defamation and emotional distress. His lawyer did not immediately respond to a phone message seeking comment on Wednesday. An attorney representing the Johnson family also didn’t immediately return a message seeking comment.
(© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)