A black highschool wrestler with dreadlocks was compelled to make a selection: lower his hair or forfeit his match.
He was informed by a referee that his hair and the hair cowl he was carrying violated wrestling guidelines throughout a competitors on Thursday in southern New Jersey.
Andrew Johnson wished to compete. So he stood, forlorn and resigned, as he acquired a hurried, last-minute haircut whereas teammates from Buena Regional High School shouted their help. With his dreadlocks shorn, Mr. Johnson went on to win his match.
But because the video gained widespread consideration on Friday, many viewers noticed one thing else: a white official forcing a black teenager to give up a a part of his id.
And because the video unfold, one other problem got here to gentle. The referee who spoke to Mr. Johnson, Alan Maloney, had been accused in 2016 of using a racial slur against a black referee at a social gathering of New Jersey wrestling officials. Mr. Maloney was suspended, but the suspension was overturned after an appeals process and he was allowed to continue officiating.
Critics pointed to the past episode in accusing Mr. Maloney of racial bias in his response to Mr. Johnson’s hair.
On Friday, the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association, which oversees high school sports, said in a statement that it would review the matter and that it had provided information to the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights.
The group also said that the New Jersey Wrestling Officials Association should not allow Mr. Maloney to continue officiating until an investigation had been completed to “avoid potential distractions for the competing wrestlers.”
In a statement Friday afternoon, the Buena Regional School District said that Mr. Maloney would “no longer be permitted to officiate any contests” that involved Buena students.
Mr. Maloney did not respond to phone or email messages. Neither did several officials from the southern chapter of the New Jersey Wrestling Officials Association, of which Mr. Maloney is a member.
Mr. Johnson could also not be reached for comment. One of his parents met with school district officials to discuss the incident, the school district said in its statement.
Ron Roberts, another wrestling referee and a member of the same chapter, said that he had spoken to Mr. Maloney on Friday about what had happened and that Mr. Maloney was “just upset about the situation,” which he believed had been taken out of context.
The New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association, in its statement, said that it was reviewing whether Mr. Johnson violated rules by the National Federation of State High School Associations on wrestlers’ hair.
Roy Dragon, who is in charge of interpreting the rules for the state wrestling officials association, declined to comment.
According to the federation’s rule book, wrestlers’ hair must not fall below the back of a shirt collar, the earlobes or eye brows.
Wrestlers with long hair are allowed to wear a hair covering that has to be “made of solid material and nonabrasive.”
Mr. Roberts, a graduate of Buena High School who has been a wrestling official for more than 20 years, said that he visited the team last week to review the rules.
When he was there, he said, he told Mr. Johnson and another student with long hair that they would need proper hair coverings to compete.
“I told them in front of the coach,” he said. “So the awareness of the hair was brought up by myself last week.”
After the meeting, Mr. Johnson competed in the team’s first match of the season without incident. George Maxwell, the Buena wrestling coach, and the school’s athletic director, David Albertson, did not respond to requests for comment.
Mr. Roberts said that usually, before the competitions begin, there are “pre-meet” discussions between officials, coaches and wrestlers on issues like uniforms, hair, facial hair or fingernails. He did not know whether this had occurred Thursday night with Mr. Johnson.
If those violations have not been addressed by the time the wrestlers have reached the competition mat, Mr. Roberts said, athletes have 90 seconds to correct the problem.
In a situation similar to the one involving Mr. Johnson, wrestlers would have three options, Mr. Roberts said: put on an appropriate hair cover, forfeit or get an approved haircut.
Mr. Roberts said that in his two decades of officiating, hair-related violations were uncommon.
The reporter who initially shared video of the incident, Mike Frankel, sent a tweet Friday seeking to add more context. He said Mr. Johnson’s coaches had argued with Mr. Maloney for several minutes, but when the referee started the time clock, Mr. Johnson agreed to have his hair cut.
The wrestler then took to the mat, where he defeated his opponent in overtime. Buena won the meet.