Lawyer: Officials have ‘unrelenting fixation’ on teen wrestler forced to cut dreadlocks

January 10, 2019 - 12:05 pm

BUENA, N.J. (1010 WINS) -- A lawyer for the high school wrestler made to cut his hair for a match in December, says his client is getting grief over his coif.

An attorney for Andrew Johnson says officials have an 'unrelenting fixation' on the high school athlete.

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The Johnson family's lawyer Dominic Speziali, wrote a letter to the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights explaining that Johnson had taken a break from competing to avoid being a distraction to his team.

Johnson cut his hair when he was told that it was not in compliance with the rules and that he would have to forfeit if he did not cut his hair. The official involved in the incident was accused of using a racial slur against another official in March 2016.

In his first match back 16-year-old Johnson went through the standard pre-match weigh-in and hair and skin inspection. NBC reports, Speziali claims a referee told the Buena coach that Johnson would have to cover his hair.

Johnson's mother questioned the order, and was told there had been some 'confusion' and that the message was regarding another wrestler.

"However, no wrestler for Buena or Buena's first opponent wore any type of hair covering," Speziali wrote. "Andrew wrestled in four matches without wearing a hair covering and without any referee raising an issue about his hair."

NJ Advance Media reports that on Monday, a state athletics official sent an email to New Jersey wrestling officials detailing which hairstyles had to be covered. Among those images was a picture of an unidentified black person with short, braided or dreadlocked hair, and shaved sides.

However, Elliot Hopkins, a director with the National Federation of State High School Associations said the hair in the pictures would not have to be covered. Elliot says per the rules, a 'legal hair cover' must be worn if the hair 'in its natural state' passes the ear lobe or touches the top of a shirt.

Buena's athletic director was planning to make Andrew wear a covering for a match on Wednesday, but that match was abruptly canceled.

"Yet it appears, for reasons that the Division can hopefully soon unmask, that certain officials have a desire to unnecessarily escalate and prolong this ordeal due on an unrelenting fixation on the hair of a 16-year-old young man that asked for absolutely none of this," he added.

The NJSIAA has opened an investigation into the incident which has been condemned by Gov. Phil Murphy and Olympic wrestler Jordan Burroughs.