Last Wednesday, a Buena Regional High School wrestler was forced to cut his dreadlocks – or forfeit his match.

A reporter tweeted a video of the high school’s trainer chopping Johnson’s locks, calling him “the epitome of a team player.”

The story went viral. National media immediately took note as tweets poured in criticizing the referee who gave Johnson the ultimatum, many calling it a racist moment.

“This is not about hair,” the New Jersey chapter of the ACLU, “This is about race.”

Reports of a 2016 incident, in which the referee, Alan Maloney, called a black referee a racial epithet and was subsequently slammed to the ground, added to that sentiment.

“Deeply disturbed that Andrew Johnson, a student at Buena Regional H.S., was forced to choose between keeping his dreadlocks and competing in a wrestling tournament,” said Governor Phil Murphy on Twitter. “No student should have to needlessly choose between his or her identity & playing sports.”

Maloney was suspended over the weekend while the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association and the state Division of Civil Rights investigates the incident.

On Monday – in a statement from their attorney  Johnson's parents said the national outrage has heartened their son.

"Andrew has been deeply moved by the thunderous outpouring of unsolicited support," the statement read.

Below are some of the reactions to the story from around the country.

​Contact: 609-272-7260


Staff Writer

I cover breaking news on the digital desk. I graduated from Temple University in Dec. 2017 and joined the Press in the fall of 2018. Previously, I freelanced, covering Pennsylvania state politics and criminal justice reform.

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