Black high school wrestler still being harassed by referees for wearing dreadlocks

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Andrew Johnson, the Black New Jersey high school wrestler who went viral for being forced to cut his dreadlocks at a match, is still reportedly being targeted for his hair.

Black leaders and wrestling figures come out in support of HS wrestler who cut dreadlocks

After a referee abused his power at the December 19 match by ordering Johnson’s locks to be chopped on the spot before he was able to wrestle, video of the incident sparked a firestorm of criticism over power, race and the disrespect of Black culture. The referee, who was also found to have called a colleague the n-word in the past, was suspended and ultimately fired.

But Johnson’s attorney Dominic Speziali said there’s been an “unrelenting fixation” on Johnson by officials and referees, who continue to make his hair an issue, NBC News reports.

On Wednesday, Speziali sent a letter to the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights, explaining that during a match last weekend, Johnson who plays for Buena Regional High School in Atlantic County, was targeted and told by a ref that he needed to wear a hair covering before he could wrestle.

When Johnson’s mother asked why she was told “that there was some confusion and it was another wrestler that would have to wear a hair covering, not Andrew,” Speziali wrote.

Speziali believes the targeting didn’t end there.

An official with the state association that regulates athletics and conducts tournaments, sent requirements to state wrestling officials of how wrestlers should look.

According to NJ Advance Media, there was an image of an unidentified black person with short, braided or dreadlocked hair and closely shaved sides, used as an example to show which hairstyles would need to be covered.

However, Elliott Hopkins, a director with the National Federation of State High School Associations, responsible for writing the competition rules, told NBC that the images show would not require a hair covering like the state officials said.

OPINION: NJ referee, who forced Black high school wrestler to cut his dreads, has absolutely no business near children

Speziali also said in his letter that a home match was schedule Wednesday, but a day before a referee told a Buena’s athletic director that he “planned to require Andrew to wear a hair covering if he intended on wrestling.”

But the match was reportedly cancelled.

The New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association announced on Wednesday that they planned to open an investigation into the rules and how they are enforced.