Alan Maloney, the New Jersey high school wrestling referee who made national headlines after forcing a black student to cut his hair before participating in a match, has been suspended over the controversy.
Maloney, who works for the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association, will be suspended from officiating for two wrestling seasons following a compromise between the agency and the state’s Division on Civil Rights, which also mandated bias training for other officials, according to a joint announcement from the civil rights division and New Jersey’s attorney general.
“Student athletes should be able to compete with each other on a level playing field,” Attorney General Gurbir Grewal (D) said in the press release.
“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,” he added.
Maloney was the subject of national attention in late December when a video of him forcing a black student, Andrew Johnson, to cut off his dreadlocks before participating in a match went viral. Johnson later went on to win the match.
Maloney was also accused of using a racial slur during a gathering with other sports officials in 2016, but says he does not remember the incident.
“Discrimination against Black people because of their hair, which is often based on stereotypes that traditionally Black hairstyles are ’unprofessional‘ or ’unkempt,’ is a persistent form of anti-Black racism,” said civil rights division Director Rachel Wainer Apter in the news release.
“This guidance makes clear that employers, housing providers and places of public accommodation cannot police Black hair. And the [decision] will ensure that high school athletes across the State can focus on being their best, not worrying that their hair will subject them to differential treatment based on race,” she added.