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 Mahoney, 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.

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

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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.

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