Referee who told N.J. wrestler to cut dreads alleges defamation

In this image taken from a Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2018 video provided by SNJTODAY.COM, Buena Regional High School wrestler Andrew Johnson gets his hair cut courtside minutes before his match in Buena, N.J. (Michael Frankel/SNJTODAY.COM via AP)

In this image taken from a Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2018 video provided by SNJTODAY.COM, Buena Regional High School wrestler Andrew Johnson gets his hair cut courtside minutes before his match in Buena, N.J. (Michael Frankel/SNJTODAY.COM via AP)

A referee who was heavily criticized for telling a New Jersey high school wrestler to cut his dreadlocks or forfeit his match has taken a step toward filing a defamation lawsuit.

The tort claim notice sent by referee Alan Maloney to a dozen possible defendants alleges $100,000 damages, defamation of character and emotional distress.

Buena Regional student Andrew Johnson had his dreadlocks cut minutes before the Dec. 19 match. Johnson, who is black, had been wearing a hair covering, but Maloney, who is white, said that wouldn’t do.

A widely circulated video showed the wrestler’s hair being haphazardly cut on the sidelines.

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Maloney has been barred from officiating pending investigations by state civil rights and interscholastic athletic association officials.

The legal claim preserves Maloney’s right to a possible lawsuit.

Maloney hasn’t responded to requests for comment. The school superintendent declined to comment.

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