The family of high school wrestler Andrew Johnson, who was forced to cut his hair by a referee during a match on Dec. 19, is considering legal action as a result of the incident.
Per TMZ Sports, Johnson and his family are looking at all of their options but will wait until the results of the New Jersey Attorney General's Division on Civil Rights concludes its investigation before making any final decision. Referee Alan Maloney, who is white, told Johnson he must cut his dreadlocks or forfeit the match.
Video of the interaction went viral after Mike Frankel of SNJ Today News tweeted it:
Mike Frankel @MikeFrankelSNJ
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. https://t.co/f6JidKNKoI
Johnson family attorney Dominic Speziali said in a statement issued on behalf of the family that Maloney shouldn't have been allowed to continue in his role.
"The blame here rests primarily with the referee and those that permitted him to continue in that role despite clear evidence of what should be a disqualifying race-related transgression," Speziali said.
New Jersey Governor Philip D. Murphy issued a statement about the incident, via Michael Gold and Jeffery C. Mays of the New York Times:
“Seeing Mr. Johnson forced by an official into a choice between giving up who he is or giving up his ability to compete was nothing short of disturbing. That he went on to win his match after this experience speaks to an incredible depth of character—and to our need to see that no future student-athlete has to endure a similar situation.”
Maloney was previously suspended in 2016 for using a racial slur toward an African American referee during a gathering before a tournament in Wildwood, New Jersey, though the suspension was overturned.