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Viral Clips, Hair Coverings and Rules — How do we prevent being the next NJ?

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There's no evidence to support race played a role in this incident. He had one issue with another official in the past but that doesn't mean it played a role here. I find it comical that you don't see the irony in your presumption of race in this incident. The minute you heard it was a black student-athlete, you start banging the race drum. You seem to care more about race than everyone else involved in this incident. 

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6 minutes ago, IU89 said:

Yes, you are pathetic and incredibly ignorant. Had the ref done this to ANY wrestler on the mat after approving his hair in the locker room is grounds for termination and not allowing him to ever work again. Allowing a documented racist to referee high school sports is also extremely pathetic. Also pathetic you find this situation comical. Says a lot about you to side with this POS. 

Call me whatever name you'd like but you have no evidence to support this had anything to do with race. I do find people like yourself comical...building straw man arguments to appease your political ideology. I've never taken the official's side, merely pointing out that many people played a role in this unfortunate incident. 

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If head gear really wasn't attached,  why didn't somebody cut slits into the hair cover to attach, which would of been much easier and legal.  It was also reported the official in this incident had an incident where  he had called a fellow African American official a racial name.   Something is fishy here.  I do think that wrestling has an underlying perception problem of being a white red neck sport. This story doesn't help that perception.   If we're going to grow the sport, we need to increase minority participation.

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10 hours ago, IU89 said:

Yes, you are pathetic and incredibly ignorant. Had the ref done this to ANY wrestler on the mat after approving his hair in the locker room is grounds for termination and not allowing him to ever work again. Allowing a documented racist to referee high school sports is also extremely pathetic. Also pathetic you find this situation comical. Says a lot about you to side with this POS. 

So someone doesn’t agree with you so you have to call them names? C’mon man...

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On 12/22/2018 at 1:33 AM, runner-up said:

Today footage of a varsity wrestler in NJ went viral. The video is of the wrestler having his hair cut matside in what I imagine allowed it to meet the the requirements for wrestlers’ appearance and health in accordance to NFHS rule 4-2-1.

The wrestler appears to be African-American and his hair was in medium length dreadlocks. From what I gather, his hair cover wasn’t legal because it couldn’t be attached to his headgear. It is unclear to me if the hair cover he was trying to use was the same he had worn all year, or if it was different. I read that he had misplaced his normal headgear and was using something else. I also read that it was the same head cover and no other official made a big deal about it. You can’t always believe what you read on the internet, so I guess pick whichever version you like. Either way, something was apparently wrong.

The main reason this seems to have gotten attention is the shock and awe factor of them hastily cutting the young man’s hair in the middle of the gym while he is clearly frustrated and emotional about the whole thing. Now asking a wrestler to cut their hair because their hair didn’t meet the standard/rule and they didn’t have the proper equipment has happened before, but it normally takes place in a lockerroom or wrestling room prior to the meet (as it should be addressed at the time of weigh ins). Having it happen in the middle of the gym in front of all to see is a much different thing and I can see how this video might catch the eyes of people unfamiliar with our sport.

Many are sharing and commenting on the video and many people are viewing it through a racial lense—a white ref making the ruling while a white trainer/manager cuts a black adolescents hair while his white coach stands by allowing all this to happen. I get the optics. It isn’t good. Making matters worse, the ref who made the call allegedly had been disciplined a few years ago for using a racial slur to discribe another official. Really not good optics.

All of this could and should have went differently. The ref should have addressed the hair at the weigh in. The wrestler could have had the proper legal haircovering (assuming he didn’t). The coach, ref, or AD could have decided that cutting the hair matside was wrong. All these things could have happened differently. Hopefully this viral video prevents this from happening again.

I hope to never see this happen in Indiana. But it very well could. I could almost have seen it happen on my mat. As a ref, I have had to enforce this rule matside—just last weekend, even, at a multi-team individual tournament. Another ref forgot to check for hair coverings (probably assuming wrestlers had them but didn’t bring them to be approved as special equipment) during skin check and the the offending wrestler came onto the mat with hair similar to the boy in the viral video. Luckily the wrestler’s teammates had a spare legal covering and they were able to correct it (in my experience, this has always been the case). The offending wrestler pinned his opponent in the first period so the penalty didn’t play a factor. After the match he and his coach said they didn’t realize he needed the hair cover and said he had been wrestling like this all year. This is a problem.

I’ve had wrestlers try to use pantyhose, skull caps that don’t meet NHFS regulations, swim caps, and even had a wrestler try to use a textbook cover as hair covers. Luckily they were all shut down during weigh-in/skin checks. If, in the heat of the moment, a wrestler didn’t have the proper equipment available like in the situation I mentioned above, I can imaging seeing a coach quickly doing something like this and me—with everything that refs have on their mind at a tournament—not thinking about how it might look or if it is appropriate letting it happen.

We can do better to prevent these situations.

I don’t know if the official was making the kid cut his hair because of racial bias. Maybe he was, maybe he wasn’t. I try not to figure out intent—that isn’t my job. As a ref, I only see two colors: red and green. But I totally can see how this has become story. In the age of social media, stuff like this spreads fast and many people don’t care to look at all the facts. If this happened in the heat of the moment at a meet that I was working, I surely wouldn’t want people assocating my name with racism and hatred.

So...let’s make sure this doesn’t happen in the Hoosier state. Below are some rules for this year’s verson of the rule book that partain to this issue.

Rule 4-2-1

During competition all wrestlers shall be clean shaven, with sideburns trimmed no lower than earlobe level and hair trimmed and well groomed. The hair, in its natural state, shall not extend below the top of an ordinary shirt collar in the back; and on the sides, the hair shall not extend below the earlobe level; in the back; and on the sides, the hair shall not extend below earlobe level; in the front, the hair shall not extend below the eyebrows. A neatly trimmed mustache that does not extend below the line of the lower lip shall be permissible. If an individual has hair longer than allowed by rule, it may be braided or rolled if it is contained in a cover so that the hair rule is satisfied. The legal hair cover shall be attached to the ear guards. A bandanna is not considered a legal hair cover. The legal hair cover must be of solid material and be nonabrasive. The wrestler opting to wear a legal hair cover must wear it to the weigh-in procedure and be checked for grooming with it on. The legal hair cover must be removed prior to the wrestler stepping on the scale to be weighed. If a referee is not present at the weigh-ins, the hair cover must be checked by the meet referee upon arrival at the site.

If an individual has facial hair it must be covered with a face mask. All legal hair covers and face masks will be considered special equipment. If an individual’s hair is as abrasive as an unshaved face, the individual shall be required to shave the head as smooth as a face is required or wear legal hair cover.

7-3-5

Reporting to the scorers table, not properly equipt, or not ready to wrestle or any equipment that is detected as being illegal after the match as started is a technical violation.

According to 5-27, technical violations are to be penalized without warning.

Rule 8 covers penalties and injuries. 8-1-1 states:

Any contestant reporting to the scorers’ table not properly equipped or not ready to wrestle is a technical violation. A wrestler with greasy substance on the body or uniform, improper grooming, objectionable pads and braces, illegal equipment, illegal uniform or any equipment that is detected as being illegal after the match has started shall be disqualified if not removed or corrected within the 1 1/2-minute injury time.

...

Most refs don’t want to be bad guys. We want to grow the sport. Help us avoid these types of calls by familiarizing yourselves with the rules and please share the information and knowledge you have gained with others.

Also, if you have questions about these or any other rules, please use this site’s “Ask the Officials” Forum. A lot of times great questions can help us dig deeper into our knowledge of the rules and make us better officials...and from what I hear, everyone wants better officials.

White kid from muncie central had his haircut matside at ecic in jay county Saturday.  Thats on the officials...they need to do a.better check at weighins.

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4 hours ago, jason said:

White kid from muncie central had his haircut matside at ecic in jay county Saturday.  Thats on the officials...they need to do a.better check at weighins.

It is easy to blame officials for not checking at weigh ins. I get that they are the ruling authority figure at the tournament so they do deserve some blame--it is, of course, part of their duties. But I am shocked how quickly we are to point the finger at the official. What about the wrestler's responsibility to properly groom him/herself? It also is a responsibility of the coach to verify that their wrestlers are groomed, properly equipped and ready to wrestle.

That is part of my issue with this NJ incident. Where is the personal responsibility of the wrestler? Why has his coach not worked with him to obtain legal hair covering? This wasn't a rule change this year. The rule that hair covering must attach to the headgear it at least 2-3 years old. Why has he been allowed to slide this long? Other officials should have enforced the rule. Then you wouldn't have the "well they him wrestle last week" excuse I am seeing many use and maybe he'd have the proper equipment.

It is a point of emphasis this year that officials are not to allow illegal equipment (like hair covering that doesn't attach), so the ref wasn't in the wrong in the ruling on the mat. It just should have been addressed earlier. According to the NYT coverage an official who graduated from Johnson's school had warned them that the hair cover wasn't legal the week prior.

I get that the ref has had the past experience/suspension with using the racial slur. That isn't ok. There isn't room for hatred and racism in the ranks of officials in the sport. If they deem he should lose his license because of that, I can understand and support that ruling. But I doubt that most of the outrage wouldn't be the same or similar had he not had that happen. People on social media were quick to respond prior to that fact coming to light.

I don't want any wrestler to feel as if this sport isn't for them or that the rules don't allow them to express themselves (including having whatever hairstyle they want). Our sport is one of the most inclusive sports when it comes to accommodations for contestants. How many sports allow a 5' 100 lb participant to be able to contribute as much as a 6'6" 250 lb participant? How many other sports allow for female and male athletes to compete against each other? We allow all participants to wrestle with accommodation if need be. I can't think of another sport that alters rules so that visually impaired contestants can compete with those who aren't and that allows contestants without limbs to compete freely. I know there are religions that don't permit shaving or cutting of the hair, wrestling allows those individuals to compete using legal coverings or facemasks.

If wearing your hair in dreadlocks or a Mississippi Mudflap (mullet for those who aren't familiar) help you express yourself, wear your hair like that to your heart's content. Just please use the proper hair covering.

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7 hours ago, navy80 said:

So someone doesn’t agree with you so you have to call them names? C’mon man...

Unfortunately this is how he and his ilk conduct themselves when discussing a controversial issue. Beacon of tolerance and diversity...unless it's diversity of opinion. In that case, they have no tolerance. His rebuttal will be he doesn't tolerate, "racist behavior," never mind there is not one piece of evidence that would suggest this incident has anything to do with racism other than the wrestler involved is black. Any fair-minded person would see that the coach, wrestler, and official all play a part in this unfortunate incident but somehow the coach and kid get a pass and the official is the racist boogey-man. At the end of the day, the kid did not report legally equipped to wrestle and the official enforced the rule. The kid could have forfeited the match and then made sure he had a legal head cover for the next meet. He chose to cut his hair mat-side which is on him and his coach. Yes, this should have been resolved at weigh-ins and the official is at fault for that mistake. Again, all three parties are at fault for this debacle. 

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1 hour ago, runner-up said:

It is easy to blame officials for not checking at weigh ins. I get that they are the ruling authority figure at the tournament so they do deserve some blame--it is, of course, part of their duties. But I am shocked how quickly we are to point the finger at the official. What about the wrestler's responsibility to properly groom him/herself? It also is a responsibility of the coach to verify that their wrestlers are groomed, properly equipped and ready to wrestle.

That is part of my issue with this NJ incident. Where is the personal responsibility of the wrestler? Why has his coach not worked with him to obtain legal hair covering? This wasn't a rule change this year. The rule that hair covering must attach to the headgear it at least 2-3 years old. Why has he been allowed to slide this long? Other officials should have enforced the rule. Then you wouldn't have the "well they him wrestle last week" excuse I am seeing many use and maybe he'd have the proper equipment.

It is a point of emphasis this year that officials are not to allow illegal equipment (like hair covering that doesn't attach), so the ref wasn't in the wrong in the ruling on the mat. It just should have been addressed earlier. According to the NYT coverage an official who graduated from Johnson's school had warned them that the hair cover wasn't legal the week prior.

I get that the ref has had the past experience/suspension with using the racial slur. That isn't ok. There isn't room for hatred and racism in the ranks of officials in the sport. If they deem he should lose his license because of that, I can understand and support that ruling. But I doubt that most of the outrage wouldn't be the same or similar had he not had that happen. People on social media were quick to respond prior to that fact coming to light.

I don't want any wrestler to feel as if this sport isn't for them or that the rules don't allow them to express themselves (including having whatever hairstyle they want). Our sport is one of the most inclusive sports when it comes to accommodations for contestants. How many sports allow a 5' 100 lb participant to be able to contribute as much as a 6'6" 250 lb participant? How many other sports allow for female and male athletes to compete against each other? We allow all participants to wrestle with accommodation if need be. I can't think of another sport that alters rules so that visually impaired contestants can compete with those who aren't and that allows contestants without limbs to compete freely. I know there are religions that don't permit shaving or cutting of the hair, wrestling allows those individuals to compete using legal coverings or facemasks.

If wearing your hair in dreadlocks or a Mississippi Mudflap (mullet for those who aren't familiar) help you express yourself, wear your hair like that to your heart's content. Just please use the proper hair covering.

For your information...i am an official from indiana...in the book we are to conduct ourselves professionally and be on point.  Case closed.

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47 minutes ago, fearless fly said:

So the ref wasn't at weigh-ins and thus must have done a prematch check(nails, hair, skin) when he arrived. 

The one thing that gets me is the kid and coach knew his hair was in violation since he originally reported to the mat with a hair cover. If they thought his hair was fine he would have never reported to the mat with a hair cover. No one reports to the mat with a hair cover(legal or not) if their hair is not in violation.

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On 12/23/2018 at 7:03 AM, UncleJimmy said:

Another fact that might not favor the ref that I didn’t see in Y2s fact list....hard not to become a racial issue if you’ve been reprimanded for a past racial issue ....

30695445_PNGimage.thumb.png.3986d9c054dd623962b7a5c856d927be.png

...and this doesn't help.  What is posted above is a snippet of an article that mentions the "racial" incident.  What is left out is that this incident happened at an "event" after a tournament where a group of officials had assembled.  The ref in question apparently put a finger in the chest of a black ref and used a "racially insensitive" term to which the black referee responded to with whooping his arse.  Of course this all gets reported and BOTH parties were sentenced to 1 year suspensions, of which both were overturned on appeal.

Does any of this sound vaguely familiar to anyone?  Co-workers involved in an after hours function involving alcohol, testosterone and poor judgement making bad decisions?  Anyone?  Am I the only one for which this describes most of my nighttime existence through my 20's?  (Thank God my 20's were before cell phones!)  So the guy may very well be a bag-o-hammers.  Maybe hes not the fella you want holding the whistle in a championship bout.  But it appears that he knows the rules and were enforcing them (albeit the timing is in question).

It's just WAY to simplistic though to "fill in the blanks" on the details in such a way that makes this a racial issue between the official and the wrestler.  IMHO I have found that the absolute best way to handle questions re: the rules is to A.) Know them and B.) Abide by them.  IF the coach and/or (in my opinion to a lesser degree) wrestler would have know the rules and abided by them, this most likely would never have been an issue.

Interesting side note: The original report / tweet posted to Twitter by SNJ Today News sports director Mike Frankel was followed by the description of "Epitome of a team player" and went on to celebrate the wrestlers commitment and his subsequent victory in OT to help his team win.  Soon after, the twitter-verse made it a racial issue to the point that the reporter had to issue a formal public apology for not "framing" the "incident" as a racial issue and admonishing the referee for his actions (aka. enforcing the rules).

I seldom by in to the over arching conspiracy theories that the "media" is purposely creating news intended to draw a racial wedge between us all.  But in this case it is obvious that what was originally reported as a celebration of an athletes perceived sacrifice for his team has since been manufactured in to a racially motivated hate crime.

And as for the "dumb" rule itself, you may be right!  In a sport desperate to stay relevant on a national and global stage, fussing over hair styles may need to be looked at differently but I certainly wouldn't want the change to come as a knee jerk reaction to accusations of racism.  The NFL ruled that dreads (see Edgerrin James) that extended out of the helmet would be regarded as part of the equipment and as such could be USED in the act of making a tackle.  Is wrestling prepared to respond when the racial overtones start rolling in from kids being taken down by the dreads (or their mullets!).  I thought the initial post was spot on in bringing the issue forward for discussion in hopes of ever repeating it!

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On 12/22/2018 at 8:42 PM, AlaskanMountie said:

It doesn't help that Jordan Burroughs has chimed in on Twitter excoriating the official but not mentioning the fact that the coach and wrestler also share responsibility for not reporting legally equipped. I'm not condoning what transpired mat side but it's sad to see a gold medal winner perpetuate the, "It's someone else's fault," mentality. I also find it baffling that somehow the race card got played as well when the kid didn't have the proper hair covering. It truly frightens me what kind of leaders we are producing after seeing incidents like this and seeing how many people are giving the coach and wrestler a pass on their role. 

Thank you for this. Sorry, he is the champ, but on this issue Burroughs is an idiot who does not appreciate all the hours non-wrestlers put in for the sport, paid or volunteer. It's bad enough for the sport trying to fill shortages of referees, but for him to go off without the facts or investigation being complete, is wrong. He has a higher responsibility to his accurate messaging and to the sport because of his following. 

This is all on the coaching staff who was warned, and even if they were not warned, did not prepare their teams. Every coach should have extra head guard/ with hair , and face-guard in event of injury.  The kid wore a non-regulation equipment item, and the kid & coach made the choice to then cut the hair. They then admitted at the previous meet that the kid “pushed his hair back,” (trying to say he did not wear a regulation cover) - which is on the previous referee.

Burroughs's lame excuse can be easily debunked by many internet videos. If I had a $1 for every-time I saw an official require hair clipping, shaving, and nail clipping being addressed I would have a new car. 

The best thing about wrestling is you compete with someone near your size, but style, length, strength, speed, technique can all be collectively unique and you can still win, regardless of race or ethnicity. But, this hair thing may be the one issue that may have uniqueness in a biological prevalence in ethnicity, but that does not make it a race issue. The National High School Association tried to address this in clarity of rules 4 years ago, and Burroughs is uninformed. 

And just like 5 O'Clock shadow is sometimes non-purposefully or disingenuously used to it's benefit, you can bet there are those that do and do not realize the effect that the abrasiveness of their hair style has on the eyes and face of an opponent, be it short and tight, or long and untamed.  I don't begrudge that sly advantage if they were judicious in its application. Been around the sport long enough to have many black, latin, middle-eastern, and white teammates and opponents with tight, thick hair, who knew how to groom it for maximum effectiveness during the season, and were not shy about it; more power to you. In practice or matches, they would use the crown of their head to dig in on tie-ins like a sand pad, into the eyes, forehead, and face, and those were predominately guys who cut their hair or cornrowed it.

Almost as bad is having a teammate whom doesn't follow appropriate methods to maintain and clean their dreadlocks, especially for wrestlers, who probably sweat and are in close quarters far more than any sport. Try going days with the equivalent of someone sticking an non-washed Force 10 Neoprene kneepad in your face and hour a day and tell me how lovely that is (and their were guys who liked to put on the smelly Force 10's for a match). You get an appreciation for the sweet smell of Baking Soda and Apple Cider Vinegar on the days my teammates deep cleaned their dreads.  

And to to have uninformed non-followers of wrestling, aided by reactionary posts like that of Burroughs now try and make this a African-America cultural issue is also a bit disingenuous, especially when the practice also has roots in Greece, Crete, India, parts of East Asia, and even Jerusalem.  

 

 

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On 12/23/2018 at 1:33 PM, IU89 said:

I heard an interview on ESPN radio with an assistant coach from that night’s  opposing team. The official was at the weighin, checked fingernails, skin and HAIR. That Official said nothing about that young man’s hair. He waited until he toed the line and shook hands with his opponent to say a word.  This Coach said in NJ those issues are handled in the locker room at weigh ins.  The opposing coach questioned the officials motives and he knew the whole story.

All of you stating that this was not racial without knowing all of the facts are being naive. What other reason would he have to wait?  To embarrass this young man publicly instead of when it should have been addressed in private? Where the only remedy would be a forfeit?  

The official should be fired and banned for life. Even if it was not racially motivated his judgment is horrible and there is no place for him in this sport. 

Wait, you just called other names and you post this, after the parents, lawyer,  and coach admitted the ref was not at the weigh-in? Do better.  

f-hotdog-b-20140706.jpg

https://people.com/human-interest/family-black-high-school-wrestler-cut-dreadlocks-speak/

 

Parents of Black Wrestler Forced to Cut Dreadlocks Blame Referee Previously Accused of Using Slur

 
 
Andrew Johnson
Andrew Johnson
Courtesy of the Johnson Family
December 26, 2018 05:20 PM

After last week’s video of a coach cutting off a black high school student’s dreadlocks went viral, the family of the boy, Andrew Johnson, is criticizing the referee who made the call.

A lawyer for Charles and Rosa Johnson, whose 16-year-old son attends Buena Regional High School in New Jersey, contended in a statement on Monday that the referee was late to the match on Dec. 19 and missed weigh-ins, which the Johnsons said is normally when the determination of any rule violations takes place.

What’s more, “when he did evaluate Andrew, he [the referee] failed to raise any issues with the length of his hair,” the Johnson family’s lawyer Dominic A. Speziali said in the statement, which he released on their behalf.

Andrew had wrestled the weekend before with the same hair style “without issue,” according to his family’s statement, and he had asked to “be allowed to push his hair back as he did the weekend prior, but the referee again refused because ‘it wasn’t in its natural state.’ “

 

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10 hours ago, Y2CJ41 said:

So the ref wasn't at weigh-ins and thus must have done a prematch check(nails, hair, skin) when he arrived. 

The one thing that gets me is the kid and coach knew his hair was in violation since he originally reported to the mat with a hair cover. If they thought his hair was fine he would have never reported to the mat with a hair cover. No one reports to the mat with a hair cover(legal or not) if their hair is not in violation.

I would say the kid and Coach werent sure if he was in violation.  In this article, it's reported that the kid was cleared earlier in check prior to match and was cleared in prior week.  So coach had a head cover just in case.  Also, the rules says hair can't go beyond the collar, but I'll say some refs have high collars and some have low collars.  It's judgement.     My question was what's wrong with the head cover?  Was it a swim cap or was it just not attached.     Again the ref could of compromised, and this infamous scissors and had some slits cut into the hair cover.

From what I say, I see 4 red flags from this ref.  

1. Was late to weigh ins.

2.  Failed at pre match check in hair and nail check as he changed his evaluation at match time from prior check.

3. Got in fist fight with another ref.

4.  Calls the other minority ref a racial slur.   

 

Why is this referee still officiating?

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This is clearly a case when either side can win the argument and wrestling still loses!!!  As a result to rules like this and the situations it gets us into we are losing athletes AND REFEREES!  I myself ended my career as a high school official b/c of the administrative focus of new rules.  

Why don't we start with page 1 of the rule book and ask ourselves - WHAT DOES THIS HAVE TO DO WITH PUTTING POINTS ON THE BOARD?  If nothing, get rid of the rule.  If dreadlocks were really an advantage for putting points on the board we would all have them.  Let's write a rule book that supports the competition of wrestling, not the rituals and traditions from decades ago that have nothing to do with the fight for points!

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