New Jersey high school sports were featured prominently in this week's news cycle, and not in a good way, after an Atlantic County wrestling match saw a referee force an African-American player to cut his dreadlocks or forfeit the match. Hackensack Deputy Mayor David Sims issued a thoughtful response in an exclusive interview with TAPinto Hackensack.
"I am shocked and upset by the inappropriate treatment of an African-American student, who wrestled this past Thursday in Buena, NJ. A referee enforced a hair cut ruling that made the student-athlete cut his dreadlocks before his match or take the forfeit," said Sims, a long-time youth basketball coach with the Hackensack Junior Basketball League. "There is no justification for this cruel and horrible embarrassment right before the match. In my opinion he should have been told during the weigh-in that his hair was too long or illegal since he already had two previous matches earlier with no problem."
The wrestler, a minor, agreed to have his locks cut, and went on to win his match, pushing his team over the top, but in the viral video, looked dejected before and after having his hair cut.
NJ.com has reported that the referee, Alan Maloney, used a racial slur at a gathering of referees in 2016.
New Jersey State Assemblyman Benjie Wimberly, who is also the Hackensack Comets Football Coach, issued a statement that reads, in part: "There are numerous athletes participating in many sports today who wear dreadlocks, a high school wrestler should not be treated any differently. As a sitting member of the NJSIAA, I am very interested in why this has happened...The referee's history of racially insensitive behavior needs to be addressed."
In a tweet, the ACLU of New Jersey stated: "No-loc bans are designed to oppress and shame Black people not just for expressing Blackness, but *for* their Blackness. They have no place in our society and certainly not in our schools. Until we can abolish these discriminatory practices and norms, we are all complicit."
"The humiliation of seeing the equipment manager just whack off his hair will never be forgotten. We must do better in protecting our kids, no matter what ethnicity, skin color or religion. With 2018 coming to an end, I pray this rude and uncalled for behavior doesn’t follow into 2019 and beyond," said Sims.