The New Jersey wrestling referee who forced a black wrestler to cut his dreadlocks during a competition in December 2018 has been suspended from his position for two years.
In a statement on Wednesday, the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights and the New Jersey State Interscholastic Association announced the punishment which some have described as weak.
The video that went viral showing referee Alan Maloney demanding the then 16-year-old Anthony Johnson to cut off his dreadlocks in order to compete in a Buena High School wrestling competition sparked an uproar, especially among people of colour.
Thousands of people, especially blacks who watched the video, accused the referee of obvious racism.
After the video went viral, the referee, who has a racist history, was suspended pending further investigations by the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA).
In 2006, he was suspended for calling a black colleague “n****e” at a social event. Following the incident, he was made to undergo sensitivity training and an alcohol awareness program.
Despite the unfortunate incident, the student, who was visibly distraught when his locks were being cut off, went ahead to win the match. He has since excelled in his sport and advanced to the Region 8 tournament after completing his wrestling season with 19 wins.
Even though some people have described the referee’s 2-year suspension judgement as weak, it seems that the referee sees it differently. A report by nydailynews states that the referee filed a legal claim alleging defamation of character, loss of income and emotional distress.
The claim argues that Maloney “properly performed his duties as the referee and fairly applied the rules governing a wrestling match.”
According to New York Daily News, Maloney alleges he lost $100,000 in income following the incident.
Meanwhile, state authorities have told New Jersey sports officials that they cannot use hair rules to unfairly discriminate against black athletes.
A statement by New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said: “Racial discrimination in the enforcement of the rules of any sport is inconsistent with the spirit of fair play. The Division on Civil Rights’ action today makes it less likely that any student athlete will have to endure discrimination that not only undermines fair competition but also violates our state laws.”
“Discrimination against Black people because of their hair, which is often based on stereotypes that traditionally Black hairstyles are ’unprofessional ‘or ’unkempt,’ is a persistent form of anti-Black racism,” said Rachel Wainer Apter, director of the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights.
The new guidance document cautions that “just as it would likely violate the LAD to refuse to hire an Orthodox Jewish man because he wears Payot, or to refuse to hire a Muslim woman because she wears a hijab, or to refuse to hire a Sikh person because they wear uncut hair, it is unlawful to refuse to hire or to otherwise treat a Black person differently because they wear their hair in a style that is closely associated with being Black.”
Early this year, New York City passed a law making it illegal to discriminate against someone based on their hair in the workplace or at school. This was well received by the black community which is fighting for inclusion.
Now, in the west of the U.S., California has passed a statewide law banning employers and school officials from discriminating against people based on their natural hair.
Passed on July 3, Crown Act was signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom, making it illegal to enforce dress code or grooming policies against hairstyles such as Afros, braids, twists, and locks, reports CNN.
“Workplace dress code and grooming policies that prohibit natural hair, including Afros, braids, twists, and locks, have a disparate impact on black individuals as these policies are more likely to deter black applicants and burden or punish black employees than any other group,” the law stated.
“This law protects the right of Black Californians to choose to wear their hair in its natural form, without pressure to conform to Eurocentric norms. I am so excited to see the culture change that will ensue from the law,” said Los Angeles Democrat Sen. Holly Mitchell, who introduced the bill earlier this year.
The new law takes effect on January 1, 2020, and it is expected to address policies that have been unfair to black people and women.