Beyond the Scoreboard: New Allegations Surround Referee

Allegations from the past seem to have caught up with Alan Maloney. (N.J. Advanced Media)

Allegations from the past seem to have caught up with Alan Maloney. (N.J. Advanced Media)


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By Andrew Posadas

On Dec. 18, 2018, Buena Regional High School wrestler Andrew Johnson of New Jersey was given two options by referee Alan Maloney. Due to not having a legally-sanctioned cover for his dreadlocks, Johnson had to cut his dreadlocks shorter in order to wrestle or else he would face forfeiting the match.

He had 90 seconds to decide what to do.

The fact of the matter is: Johnson really did not have much of a choice.

Maloney’s officiating sparked nationwide outrage from those who believed his actions were racially charged, given that Johnson is biracial. Maloney was not without his group of supporters; fellow referees defended him from the beginning, arguing he had followed protocol in upholding the rules on hair length in wrestling.

Maybe the “just following rules” defense would hold water if this had been a first-time incident. However, new allegations have brought to light prior incidents involving Maloney. One in particular involves the referee in a very familiar and damning situation.

As first reported by NJ Advance Media for NJ.com, Maloney is indeed no stranger to quarrelsome circumstances. In 2012, while officiating a youth tournament, Maloney allegedly told a six-year-old wrestler that he could not compete due to his hair. The youth wrestler was also biracial, just like Andrew Johnson. Sound familiar?

New Jersey’s Division on Civil Rights recently received a witness declaration which delves deeper into the incident. A witness claims that Maloney told the six-year-old he could not wrestle because “hair doesn’t naturally look like that.”

Maloney had followed that up by remarking the young child had “stuff in his hair” in an attempt to validate his reasoning. In this instance, the boy’s parents were in attendance and tried to assure Maloney that their child’s hair was natural.

Regardless, Maloney didn’t budge on his ruling, refusing to believe the parents. It would finally take another referee, specifically a person of color, to intervene on behalf of the parents. The other referee deemed the boy’s hair natural, allowing him to wrestle that day.

It did not end there. While Maloney was officiating the child’s second match of that day, the boy was put in what looked to be an illegal chokehold. Allegedly, Maloney waited multiple seconds before stopping the match. This prompted a verbal altercation between the boy’s coach and Maloney. This altercation ultimately ended in the dismissal of the coach from the gym.

The boy’s parents did not initially seek further action against Maloney until they heard of the Dec. 19 incident with Andrew Johnson. In the six years between these two incidents, Maloney had allegedly kicked an 11-year-old (also biracial) in 2014 at a tournament in Paulsboro, N.J. The young man’s mother, Jessica Castro, explained that her son accidentally warmed up for his match on a mat that was already being used.

Castro says Maloney delivered a hard enough kick to her son that he was knocked off balance. Upon confronting Maloney, she, too, ended up getting ejected from the gym, exactly like the coach of the six-year-old two years earlier. It is not just coaches and parents who have had disputes with Maloney.

Two years ago, Maloney found himself in hot water when he allegedly said the N-word in front of other referees at a social function. Referee Preston Hamilton, who had witnessed the incident with Jessica Castro’s son, threw Maloney to the ground. Both referees were suspended a year for their part in the scrum but eventually appeals overturned their suspensions.

At the moment, Maloney is no longer being assigned to officiate wrestling meets in the Buena Regional School District. The superintendent of the district, David Cappuccio, is adamant that he will never officiate in the district ever again.

While that is good news, what remains confusing is how Alan Maloney was able to continue working as a referee for six more years after the initial 2012 incident. Nobody around him had raised any issues in that period until the incident involving Andrew Johnson. Even after he originally denied a six-year-old the opportunity to wrestle and even when he kicked Jessica Castro’s son off of a mat instead of politely asking him to move, Maloney kept his job.

Luckily, the power of social media helped shed light on one certainty following this story: Alan Maloney does not deserve to be a referee.