Video of a high school wrestler being forced to cut off his dreadlocks before a match has sparked an outrage. In the clip, Andrew Johnson is given an impromptu haircut before competing after the referee refuses to allow him to wear a helmet to cover his dreadlocks. If Johnson didn’t agree to the haircut, he had to forfeit.
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Johnson, a student at Buena Regional High School in New Jersey, was told that he had to cut his dreadlocks off by Alan Maloney, a referee who previously came under fire for being involved in a racist argument.
“A referee wouldn’t allow Andrew Johnson of Buena @brhsciefs to wrestle with a cover over his dreadlocks,” said Mike Frankel in a tweet. “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.”
Frankel also posted a video of the incident, which has since been viewed over 7.4 million times.
Rules issued by the National Federation of State High School Associations do not explicitly ban dreadlocks. According to Situation 17, as reported by the Daily Mail, “natural hair that is non-abrasive is allowed but ‘must be contained in a legal hair cover.’”
In the video, a white woman is shown haphazardly cutting off Johnson’s dreadlocks.
Johnson later dominated his opponent, winning the match. Frankel stated that Johnson was the “epitome of a team player” for his decision to compete, even if it meant sacrificing his hair.
“This dehumanizing and what anti-blackness look like in sports,” said Alex Medina. “Andrew Johnson was failed at every possible level by his coaches. They should have defended him and protected his dignity even if it cost them a loss.”
Social media users were largely outraged by the incident. Many asserted that him being required to cut off his dreadlocks was “racist.” Several stated that the referee “needs to be fired immediately.”
Some wondered why no one stood up for Johnson, though Frankel added that “the wrestler’s coaches argued the referee’s decision for several minutes, until the referee started the injury time clock.”
Epitome of a team player ⬇️
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
— Mike Frankel (@MikeFrankelSNJ) December 20, 2018