US & Canada

Referee who told wrestler to cut dreadlocks suspended

A person with dreadlocks Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption There is a long history of racial discrimination in the US based on hair style

A US referee who told a wrestler to cut his dreadlocks or forfeit the match has been suspended for two years.

High-school student Andrew Johnson decided to cut his hair in order to compete.

Footage of the incident was posted to social media with some accusing referee Alan Moloney of racial discrimination.

State officials have also ordered officials and staff involved in high school athletics to take part in bias training.

The teenager from Buena Regional High School was reportedly given just seconds to make up his mind at the bout last year.

He was told by Mr Moloney that his hair violated a rule that governs the length of an athlete's hair and whether they should wear a hair cover.

Mr Johnson could not find a suitable hair cover ahead of the match.

The video footage posted to Twitter shows his hair being cut away by a coach or trainer and Mr Johnson then winning in overtime to help his school to victory over Oakcrest High School.

Many posts on Twitter said that the referee's actions were "cruel" and "humiliating".

The New Jersey Division on Civil Rights and the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) decided on the punishment for Mr Maloney.

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New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said in a statement: "Student athletes should be able to compete with each other on a level playing field. Racial discrimination in the enforcement of the rules of any sport is inconsistent with the spirit of fair play."

The NJSIAA will also provide training to wrestling officials in the state, emphasising that the rule cited in the incident is based on hair length and not on hair style.

"The training will also explain the long history of discrimination based on hair style," the statement said.

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Media captionChildren from across the world took part in The Big Hair Assembly

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