US referee tells wrestler to cut dreadlocks or forfeit match
An inquiry has been ordered after a referee told a US high-school wrestler he would have to cut his dreadlocks or forfeit a match.
Teenager Andrew Johnson chose to have his hair cut at the venue, and went on to win his bout for Buena Regional High School in New Jersey.
Video of the incident went viral on Twitter, with some accusing referee Alan Maloney of racial discrimination.
He had been accused of making a racial slur to a black colleague in 2016.
It has been recommended he not officiate pending a review, although some officials said he was following the rules for the sport in this case.
The video, posted by Mike Frankel of SNJ Today News and others, has been viewed by millions since Friday:
Epitome of a team player ⬇️— Mike Frankel (@MikeFrankelSNJ) December 20, 2018
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
Andrew Johnson was reportedly given just seconds to make up his mind at the bout in Mays Landing, southern New Jersey.
The video shows the hair being cut away by a coach or trainer and Mr Johnson then winning in overtime to help his school to victory over Oakcrest High School.
Frankel wrote: "Epitome of a team player."
The New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association recommended Mr Maloney not officiate until a review had been completed.
The state's civil rights division will also review the incident.
Amol Sinha, of the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey, told The Inquirer: "He shouldn't have had to make the choice of cutting his hair or forfeiting the match. This doesn't seem to be about hair. It seems to be about race."
The paper quoted Democratic state lawmaker John Armato as saying that this was "a clear act of racial discrimination" and that the referee should be banned.
Many posts on Twitter said that the referee's actions were "cruel" and "humiliating".
According to the rules, wrestlers are required to adhere to guidelines on appearance that include having longer hair properly contained within headgear.
One refereeing expert told the Inquirer that the issue should have been sorted out long before the wrestler came on to the mat, while another said Mr Maloney was simply following the rules and had done nothing wrong.
Mr Johnson has wrestled before without incident.
Mr Maloney has not yet commented.
The sportingnews website said Mr Maloney had reportedly used a racial slur towards a black colleague at a social event in 2016. He apologised although he had said he did not remember the incident.