The viral video of a Black high school wrestler from New Jersey who was forced to cut off his dreadlocks when a white referee gave him the option to cut them or forfeit his match has started a fiery debate on the rules of the sport.
Referee Alan Maloney, who has a history of using racial slurs, told Andrew Johnson of Buena Regional High School he would have to cut his hair to participate in the match. According to SNJ Today, Johnson had his dreadlocks covered before the match, but Maloney would still not allow it.
High school wrestling policy states, "if the hair in its natural state is longer than allowed by rule, then it must be contained in a legal hair cover," according to the National Federation of State High School Associations.
While it remains unknown if Johnson had a legal head cover, many argued that the public cutting of his dreadlocks was humiliating and racist.
"This is despicably racist and that this kid was forced to cut his dreadlocks on the spot says more about the institution that would force such a rule. There isn’t a black person with long hair in this country who hasn’t had their protective hairstyle questioned," tweeted @DKuzNY.
Once the video became a national talking point, some argued that the team coach should have been familiar with the rules and made sure Johnson's hair was appropriate.
"Ya all reacting but don’t even know you can’t have long hair while wrestling it’s a rule. Just like any other sport has its rules in place," wrote @_mariiimariii on Instagram.
While some said that wrestling has strict rules in place for the athletes, female wrestlers shot back and said they are allowed to compete with long hair.
"Girls don’t need to cut off our hair we wear caps , SMH" commented @narnar__.
Regardless of the rules, there was a clear missed opportunity for Johnson's teammates and/or coaching staff to stand up for him and keep his hair from being cut.