NEW YORK, USA – A referee who triggered an outcry after ordering a high school wrestler to cut off his dreadlocks before competing in an event last year has been suspended for two years, authorities in New Jersey said Wednesday, September 18.
The New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) said officials and staff involved in school sport across the state would also be required to undergo implicit-bias training.
The decision follows an incident on December 18 last year in which a white referee, Alan Maloney, told wrestler Andrew Johnson to cut off his dreadlocks or forfeit his match.
Johnson and his team's coaches protested but eventually acquiesced. One of Johnson's coaches performed a quick haircut and the teenager competed and won his bout.
Video footage of the incident, however, went viral, with critics branding the incident "racist," "cruel" and "humiliating."
The case prompted an investigation by New Jersey's Division on Civil Rights, which led to the NJSIAA agreeing to suspend Maloney for the next two seasons.
New Jersey attorney general Gurbir S. Grewal welcomed the coach's suspension.
"As a rising tide of hate threatens our values, we thank NJSIAA for their help in ensuring equal treatment for all students athletes," Grewal said.
"Student athletes should be able to compete with each other on a level playing field. Racial discrimination in the enforcement of the rules of any sport is inconsistent with the spirit of fair play."
The investigation discovered Maloney had ordered Johnson to forfeit his bout after claiming his hair violated a rule governing the length of hair and use of hair covers.
Previously, athletes in New Jersey with similar hairstyles had been allowed to compete by using a hair cover. – Rappler.com