By Cady Lang
December 21, 2018

A referee is being called out online for appearing to force a student athlete to choose between cutting off his dreadlocks or forfeiting a wrestling match on Wednesday night.

In a widely-shared video shared by journalist Mike Frankel on Thursday, Buena Regional High School, New Jersey student athlete Andrew Johnson is seen getting his dreadlocks cut off before he led his team to an overtime victory. Sports Illustrated reported that Johnson showed up to compete with his dreadlocks in a wrap, but that Referee Alan Maloney still insisted that Johnson’s hair be cut to compete, according to NSJ.

This isn’t the first time that Maloney’s work as a referee has received backlash; according to the Courier Post, in 2016, he allegedly used a racial slur against another referee, which he told the Post he did not remember doing. His one-year suspension over the alleged use of the word was later overturned.

Maloney’s apparent ultimatum sparked widespread outrage online, with many calling out his actions as racially charged and others critiquing the viewpoint that the incident as a chance to be a “team player,” when it dealt with more serious issues.

Buena Regional High School did not respond when asked for comment.

Write to Cady Lang at cady.lang@timemagazine.com.

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