Social reaction to high school wrestler Andrew Johnson, who was forced to cut his dreadlocks to compete
Folks are none too pleased with the referee
4:06 PMProminent figures from all corners of social media voiced outrage Friday after video of a black high school wrestler in New Jersey being forced to cut his dreadlocks by a referee went viral.
Disgusting and heartbreaking. A referee known for his racism, Alan Maloney (google him), made high school wrestler Andrew Johnson cut off his dreads or lose the match. They were covered and gave him no advantage. So he cut them off. He won the match. Never should’ve been allowed. pic.twitter.com/ChMXPBzHPk
— Shaun King (@shaunking) December 21, 2018
According to a report, Buena Regional High School junior Andrew Johnson attempted to cover his dreadlocks with a head cap before his match at a meet on Dec. 19, but was told that his covering was not in compliance with state rules.
While Johnson’s coaches fought back against the ruling, Johnson was told he must cut his hair or face a forfeit. The wrestler opted for the school’s trainer to cut his hair.
The referee has since been barred from further officiating pending an investigation into the incident by the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association.
This is not the first time this referee has been involved in an incident closely related to race. In 2016, the referee, Alan Maloney, reportedly poked his finger in the chest of a black referee and called him the N-word.
But the incident is only half of the outrage. As video began to surface on social media, both reporters and outlets alike began to brand the incident as a “feel-good story,” labeling Johnson as courageous and a “team player.”
Epitome of a team player ⬇️
A referee wouldn't allow Andrew Johnson of Buena @brhschiefs to wrestle with a cover over his dreadlocks. It was either an impromptu haircut, or a forfeit. Johnson chose the haircut, then won by sudden victory in OT to help spark Buena to a win. pic.twitter.com/f6JidKNKoI
— Mike Frankel (@MikeFrankelSNJ) December 20, 2018
Many on social media, however, immediately voiced their opposition to the framing of the event, instead labeling it for what it was, a case of racial bias.
Johnson would win his 120-pound match with a takedown in overtime, but as the video shows was clearly more concerned with the events that occurred before the match.
The incident elicited response from a handful of high-profile figures including Ava DuVernay, Soledad O’Brien and world champion wrestler Jordan Burroughs:
Going to be interesting to watch how this is handled. If I were this kid’s mom and somebody cut his hair at a school sporting event—I’d be pulling off my earrings and getting ready to pound someone. https://t.co/z6fzxfi5eA
— Soledad O'Brien (@soledadobrien) December 22, 2018
The framing of this story is problematic. This isn’t overcoming adversity, but a person of color having to succeed in the face of prejudice. https://t.co/nKDwnVfi5D
— Jemele Hill (@jemelehill) December 21, 2018
Enough of these bastards. Ban him for life. Fire him from his job. Sue any goddamned racist idiots who defend him, into bankruptcy. Enough of this authorized return to 1938. https://t.co/yLL3j4HYiI
— Keith Olbermann (@KeithOlbermann) December 21, 2018
Is that a RULE??? No Dreads. Show me. https://t.co/ww1C5hyOW9
— Cari Champion (@CariChampion) December 21, 2018
once seen a person required to cut their hair during a match. This is nonsense. As a referee, you are required to check the hair and nails of all wrestlers BEFORE a match. My opinion is that this was a combination of an abuse of power, racism, and just plain negligence.
— Jordan Burroughs (@alliseeisgold) December 22, 2018
Does anyone know the full name of Andrew Johnson’s school? Yes, to referee pressure. Absolutely. But I want to explore the school officials on-site, mainly the coaches, that allowed this to happen to a minor.
— Ava DuVernay (@ava) December 21, 2018
So irritated seeing these white folks call Andrew Johnson a “team player” for having to cut his locs off at the whim of a racist referee and an uninformed coach.
— Amanda Seales 🇬🇩 (@amandaseales) December 22, 2018