(RNN) – A New Jersey high school referee who was once accused of calling a fellow referee the N-word at a social gathering drew widespread condemnation after he forced a black wrestler to cut his dreadlocks or forfeit a match.
Video from the wrestling meet on Thursday night showed Andrew Johnson of Buena High School getting a haircut from an athletic trainer so he could compete.
He won the match and was embraced by teammates after his victory.
Reporter Mike Frankel of SNJ Today recorded the video and posted it to Twitter.
The referee involved in Thursday’s incident was Alan Maloney.
In 2016, the Courier-Post newspaper of South New Jersey reported on an altercation between him and another New Jersey high school wrestling referee, Preston Hamilton.
In that episode, Hamilton said Maloney poked him in the chest and called him the N-word at a gathering of youth wrestling officials.
Maloney was given a one-year suspension by the New Jersey Wrestling Officials Association, as was Hamilton, for a “physical assault” after the slur was used against him. Both suspensions were later dismissed on appeal, and Maloney has continued to referee New Jersey wrestling matches.
“It was two men, a group of guys, having fun and it was just a slip-up. If you can’t see past that, then I don’t know what to say. I made a mistake and I apologized for it. And it was accepted,” Maloney told the Courier-Post two years ago.
Thursday night’s episode drew accusations that forcing Johnson to cut his hair was echoing that racist history.
“This is without a doubt a clear act of racial discrimination,” John Armato, a Democratic state assemblyman, told the Courier-Post. “Alan Maloney, someone who shouldn’t have been allowed to work as a referee after previous condemned actions, should be banned immediately.”
He added that the incident was “sure to be (a) traumatic experience that Johnson should have never encountered.”
However, another New Jersey wrestling referee, Ron Roberts, told the paper a rule concerning hair length was applied properly.
Hair cannot go past a wrestler’s earlobes, and while Johnson was wearing a legal head covering, it was apparently not connected to his wrestling head gear, as a new rule requires.
The New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association is reportedly investigating the incident.