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Referee Criticized For Telling High School Wrestler To Cut Dreadlocks Alleges Defamation, Emotional Distress

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WILLIAMSTOWN, N.J. (CBS/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.

Andrew Johnson dreadlocks
(credit: SNJ Today)

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.

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

Rachel Green, the civil rights director for Action Together New Jersey, said during a Buena Regional Board of Education meeting in December that the video broke her heart.

"This young man will never ever forget the physical and mental toll he took that night," Green said at the time.  "As a mother raising children in this area, it broke my heart. It didn't matter if he was black, white, green or purple."

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.

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

(© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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