Referee Alan Maloney has been suspended for two seasons after telling a New Jersey high school wrestler to cut his dreadlocks or forfeit a match in December 2018.
The referee who told a New Jersey high school wrestler to cut his dreadlocks or forfeit his match has been suspended for two seasons, the state's Division on Civil Rights and state's athletic association announced on Wednesday.
Referee Alan Maloney cannot officiate any matches during the preseason, regular season, postseason or tournaments during the 2019-20 and 2020-21 seasons. His suspension comes after an eight-month investigation by the DCR and New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association. In addition, the NJSIAA must provide implicit bias training to athletic administrators, coaches and athletic trainers by the end of the 2020-21 season.
"Student athletes should be able to compete with each other on a level playing field," New Jersey Attorney General Grewal said in a statement. "Racial discrimination in the enforcement of the rules of any sport is inconsistent with the spirit of fair play. The Division on Civil Rights' action today makes it less likely that any student athlete will have to endure discrimination that not only undermines fair competition but also violates our state laws."
Maloney's lawyer did not respond to a request for comment from the Associated Press.
The DCR also issued a "Guidance on Race Discrimination on Hairstyle" to explain "when treating people differently due to their hairstyle may violate the state’s anti-discrimination laws and to help prevent such discrimination in the future."
In December 2018, Andrew Johnson of Buena Regional High School had his dreadlocks covered as he prepared for his 120-pound match. Maloney told Johnson he could either cut his hair of forfeit, so Johnson chose the last-minute haircut. Maloney was banned from officiating matches involving the Buena Regional School District later in December. In March, he filed a legal claim alleging defamation of character and emotional distress.
"Buena Regional High School wrestler Andrew Johnson scored another decisive win today, not one the mat, but for the progress of civil rights in New Jersey," Johnson's lawyer Dominic A. Speziali wrote on Wednesday.
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, state assemblyman John Armato and the state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union criticized Maloney for his actions that many called racist and discriminatory.
In 2016, Maloney was accused of directing a racial slur at another official who was black. He was initially suspended but had the punishment overturned after an appeal.