Andrew Johnson, a black wrestler at Buena Regional High School, was recently seen on a viral video getting his dreadlocks cut off completely at one of his wrestling matches. Why you might ask?
To avoid forfeiting the match, thanks to a call made by Alan Maloney who was the referee at the time. Maloney, who has come under scrutiny for racial slurs against another black referee in 2016, demanded during the match that the student cut his hair or go home.
Johnson, who didn’t want to let his team down, decided to follow orders and allow the athletic trainer to do just that. Needless to say, this caused major outrage from the community.
What’s the big deal? It’s only hair, right?
Wrong! Johnson later shared that he dedicated years to growing his dreadlocks because they represented his pride in his culture. When he was forced to make the decision to cut his hair, he stated that he had no choice because he didn’t want to let his teammates down.
This show of team dedication and commitment didn’t go unnoticed. Professional wrestler Jordan Burroughs took to Twitter stating that Johnson’s decision showed his ability to “step up and be selfless” even though he completely hated the fact that Johnson had to make such a decision.
“This is complete nonsense,” Burroughs tweeted. “My opinion is that this was a combination of an abuse of power, racism, and just plain negligence,” he continued. Governor Phil Murphy also found this event to be unfortunate when he tweeted that he was “deeply disturbed that Andrew Johnson was needlessly forced to choose between his identity and playing sports.”
Maloney was already forced in 2016 to take sensitivity training and to attend an alcohol awareness program. With such a history one would think that he would be more closely watched when residing over tournaments. Unfortunately, this was not the case.
The New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association announced that Maloney would not be allowed to serve as the referee for other events until the matter was fully investigated. Additionally, the Division on Civil Rights and the school superintendent are all investigating the matter, as well. It makes one wonder exactly what they are investigating if the video shows the evidence?
What are they trying to see that goes outside of what is clearly being displayed? It truly makes one wonder if this is just another way to say it’s being investigated until the smoke clears. Based on Maloney’s past, he should have never been cleared to serve as a referee in the first place.
It’s most unfortunate that outside bias, prejudice, fear, and ignorance come into the schools by adults who just can’t get past their small-minded way of thinking. Johnson was a victim in this incident because he was placed in a situation where he had to make a choice on what he believed in for himself and what he believed in as a team player.
Most would criticize this young man for making the choice to cut his hair…choosing to override his pride in his culture, and instead, showing his pride in a game. This is one of those things that a person would have to find themselves in prior to judging whether or not Johnson made a good decision at that time.
By the way, Johnson ended up winning the game. However, it’s too bad he had to lose something else to do so.