Family Of Black Wrestler Forced To Cut Dreadlocks Speaks Out About The Controversy

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New Jersey high school student Andrew Johnson,15, just wanted to wrestle for his team. He certainly wasn’t expecting to show up for the match and have his dreadlocks cut off.

Now his family is placing the blame squarely on the shoulders of referee Alan Maloney for his mandate that Johnson either cut his hair or be disqualified.

The family’s lawyer, Dominic A. Spezial, explained why the decision was racist:

“As this matter is further investigated, the family wants to be clear that they are supportive of Andrew’s coaches and the team’s athletic trainer. The blame here rests primarily with the referee and those that permitted him to continue in that role despite clear evidence of what should be a disqualifying race-related transgression.”

The New Jersey Attorney General’s Office spokesperson, Leland Moore, told BuzzFeed News the Division on Civil Rights has launched an investigation. Maloney was investigated once before in 2016 for calling a colleague the n-word at an after-work party.

In a video that has since gone viral, Johnson is seen getting his locks cut off by the team’s trainer. He chose that over being disqualified. Johnson then went on to win his match.

Speziali said about the video:

“Andrew was visibly shaken after he and his coaches made every effort to satisfy the referee short of having his hair cut, but, as captured on video, the unyielding referee gave Andrew 90 seconds to either forfeit his match or cut his hair. Under duress but without any influence from the coaching staff or the athletic trainer, Andrew decided to have his hair cut rather than forfeit the match.”

The New Jersey ACLU sent out a tweet condemning the position the teen was put in.

People are rightfully angry over how this was allowed to happen. 

Many feel the adults failed this young man. 

Olympic wrestling champion Jordan Burroughs explained what it meant on a larger scale:

Andrew’s parents, Charles and Rosa, said:

“Wrestling has taught Andrew to be resilient in the face of adversity. As we move forward, we are comforted by both the strength of Andrew’s character and the support he’s received from the community. We will do all that we can to make sure that no student-athlete is forced to endure what Andrew experienced.”

Screenshot Johnson Family via Buzzfeed. (L to R- Rosa, Andrew, Nate, Cami, and Charles Johnson)

Andrew Johnson has yet to speak out.


Written by Jonna Ivin

Jonna Ivin is the founder of STIR Journal and writer of the essay, I Know Why Poor Whites Chant, Trump, Trump, Trump. She has appeared on NPR, OPB, The Roland Martin Show and KCRW. Jonna is the author of the books Will Love For Crumbs, 8th Amendment, and, Sister Girl. Her writing has been featured in Good Magazine, STIR Journal, The Establishment, and xoJane. Twitter @jonnaivin