An incident at a New Jersey high school wrestling tournament in which a black wrestler was forced by a white referee to cut off his dreadlocks has once again sparked a social media backlash and questions about the treatment of young people of color.
A video originally tweeted by a SNJ Today reporter shows Buena Regional High School junior Andrew Johnson standing dejected in the school's gym after being forced to choose between getting his hair cut or forfeiting.
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. pic.twitter.com/f6JidKNKoI
— Mike Frankel (@MikeFrankelSNJ) December 20, 2018
In the video, fans and coaches watch an official cut off Johnson's dreadlocks with a pair of scissors before he is allowed to compete.
The crowd cheers as Johnson wins the match – which helped his school to a tournament victory – but despite having his hand raised after the victory the junior stands with his shoulders slumped and head down as he walks off the mat to be comforted by his team.
The American Civil Liberties Union's New Jersey chapter responded by tweeting that, "This is not about hair. This is about race. How many different ways will people try to exclude Black people from public life without having to declare their bigotry?"
On Friday, the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association said it was conducting an investigation and had contacted Buena Regional High School officials and the referee involved in the incident.
The association also said it was forwarding preliminary information to the New Jersey Division of Civil Rights and that, "given the degree of attention being focused on this matter," it would recommend that the referee not be assigned to any event until the incident "has been reviewed more thoroughly."
The Buena Regional High School athletic department did not return a phone call seeking comment.