The parents of the 16-year-old black varsity wrestler who was forced to cut his dreadlocks before a match has spoken out for the first time since the incident.

Charles and Rosa Johnson, speaking through their attorney, Dominic A. Speziali, said in a Monday statement that the conduct of the referee who forced their son, Andrew, to cut his hair “appears more egregious as additional information comes to light.”

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“Andrew has been deeply moved by the thunderous outpouring of unsolicited support — including from an Olympic wrestler, leading civil rights advocates and elected officials — after the shocking pre-match ultimatum,” the statement read


Dishing on Andrew’s experience, the statement added, “Andrew was visibly shaken after he and his coaches made every effort to satisfy the referee short of having his hair cut. But, as captured on video, the referee gave Andrew 90 seconds to either forfeit his match or cut his hair.”

The family alleges that the referee was late to the meet and didn’t question their son’s hair or the need for a head covering during the initial evaluation. The referee later told Andrew his hair and headgear were not in compliance with league regulations, Speziali said in the statement.

Andrew told the referee he could push his hair back, Speziali said, but the referee refused because Andrew’s hair “wasn’t in its natural state.”

So he gave an ultimatum: cut the locks or forfeit the match. Andrew chose to have his hair cut rather than forfeit the match, according to a letter from the school district Superintendent David Cappuccio Jr.