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Referee in Buena wrestling haircut incident sues NJSIAA and district
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Referee in Buena wrestling haircut incident sues NJSIAA and district

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The high school wrestling referee involved in an incident in which a Buena Regional High School wrestler had his dreadlocks cut rather than forfeit a match has sued the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association.

NJSIAA attorney Steve Goodell announced during the NJSIAA executive committee meeting Wednesday morning that referee Alan Maloney has filed a lawsuit in Atlantic County Superior Court. The association said it was reviewing the suit.

The suit was filed Dec. 18. It also names the Buena Regional Board of Education, as well as George Maxwell, the wrestling coach at Buena, and David Albertson, the athletic director at Buena.

In the suit, Maloney alleges the association did not follow due process when they suspended him for two years. The suit is seeking damages, plus court and legal fees.

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The incident occurred Dec. 19, 2018, during Buena’s dual meet against Oakcrest. Maloney was in his 33rd season as a high school wrestling referee.

Maloney allegedly would not allow Buena wrestler Andrew Johnson to compete with a cover over his hair. Maloney reportedly said Johnson either had to have his hair cut or forfeit his match.

Maloney is white, and Johnson is Black and Hispanic. Video of the Buena trainer cutting Johnson’s dreadlocks went viral.

The video was later shown on TMZ.com, SI.com and other websites. Commenters — including notable figures such as Chance the Rapper, director Ava DuVernay and Gov. Phil Murphy — were outraged by what they regarded as an act of overt racism.

In other news related to the Buena incident, acting state Education Commissioner Angelica Allen-McMillan last month upheld the NJSIAA’s two-year suspension of Maloney. In September 2019, the NJSIAA announced it had suspended Maloney for two wrestling seasons. The NJSIAA also required Maloney to undergo implicit bias training prior to any reinstatement.

Contact Michael McGarry: 609-272-7209

MMcGarry@pressofac.com

Twitter @ACPressMcGarry

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