The defamation lawsuit filed by a referee whose call on a head-covering rule resulted in a high school wrestler deciding to cut his dreadlocks rather than forfeit a match was dismissed by a Superior Court judge.

During a match officiated by Alan Maloney, a Buena Regional wrestler named Andrew Johnson, nicknamed AJ,  could not produce a regulation hair covering during a match in December 2018 and made the decision to have his coach Gregory Maxwell cut his hair.

A reporter covering the match posted a video to Twitter showing Maxwell and AJ, sparking national headlines and debate over whether the decision was racially motivated.

Maloney was suspended from officiating by the NJSIAA for two seasons.

Maloney filed the lawsuit against the Buena Regional school district, Athletic Director David Albertson, then-NJSIAA Executive Director Larry White and Maxwell, the veteran referee said that the wrong information included in the tweet was "manipulated and misconstrued as a national race issue." 

Maloney blamed White for bowing to pressure from a "media blitz" and "fueling erroneous reports in the media that the plaintiff's (Maloney's) actions were racially motivated." He also said he lost $100,000 in potential income because of the suspension.

The incident led to a requirement that high school athletics staff and referees receive bias training.

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNJ

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