A New Jersey referee who made headlines for requesting a high school athlete cut his dreads before a match is now suing for defamation and emotional distress.
Last year, veteran referee Alan Maloney instructed high school wrestler Andrew Johnson to cut his dreads before allowing him to compete in a December match. Video of the incident went viral and sparked outrage nationwide, as Blavity reported.
Later that month, Maloney was sidelined from all games by the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association. The Buena Regional Board of Education found Maloney's actions intolerable, stating that the organization and the New Jersey school district would "not compete in any contest officiated by this referee from this point forward."
Now, the New York Daily News reports Maloney has filed a claim in response to this ruling against 12 possible defendants, including the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association and Buena School District officials and coaches.
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In his claim, Maloney claims he did nothing wrong and was merely enforcing a longstanding rule. He's asking for $100,000 in damages, citing allegations of defamation, emotional distress and loss of income.
“I think he's just covering his bases,” said Johnson's attorney, Dominic Speziali, in response to the claim. “To the extent that he plans to file a claim as a victim in this incident is outright absurd.”
According to The Morning Call, Speziali has pushed back against the idea Maloney was following a rule, arguing Johnson should have been allowed to continue wrestling “as he did just four days earlier — without a hair covering, without having to first cut his hair and without Maloney’s unjustified interference.”
The official consequences for Maloney's actions have not yet been determined as a probe continues within the Division on Civil Rights and the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association. The investigation had been delayed for three months so as not to interrupt the remainder of the wrestling season.
Maloney ordering Johnson to cut his dreadlocks wasn't the first time he'd run into trouble for alleged racial insensitivity. In 2016, he was suspended for calling a Black colleague "n****r" at a social event. He had to undergo sensitivity training and an alcohol awareness program following the incident.
With Maloney sidelined, Johnson has excelled in his sport. The junior high school student recently advanced to the coveted Region 8 tournament after completing his wrestling season with 19 wins.
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