United World Wrestling

Jordan Burroughs reaches out to wrestler forced by referee to cut dreadlocks

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Olympic champion Jordan Burroughs offered his support to fellow New Jersey wrestler Andrew Johnson, who was forced by a referee to cut his dreadlocks in order to compete on Wednesday night.

Johnson, who is black, had a cover over his hair, but referee Alan Maloney, who is white, said that wouldn’t do.

Burroughs posted and spoke on social media early Saturday morning after researching what happened. Maloney was recommended by New Jersey’s high school athletics association not to be assigned to any events while the matter is under review.

Burroughs, a 2012 Olympic gold medalist and four-time world champion, said that Maloney was a referee for some of his matches while in high school. Burroughs’ school is 15 miles north of Johnson’s school.

“Let me tell you how sickening this is,” was tweeted from Burroughs’ account. “I’ve been wrestling for 25 years, at every level, and I have never once seen a person required to cut their hair during a match. This is nonsense. As a referee, you are required to check the hair and nails of all wrestlers BEFORE a match. My opinion is that this was a combination of an abuse of power, racism, and just plain negligence.”

Wrestlers are allowed to wear legal hair covers during matches, according to wrestling rules set by the National Federation of State High School Associations, NJ.com reports. If a wrestler’s hair in its natural state extends below the earlobe on the sides or touches the top of a normal shirt, it’s required to be secured in a hair cover.

Maloney came under fire in 2016 for using a racial slur against a black referee, according to the Courier Post newspaper. At a private gathering between officials at a condominium, Maloney allegedly poked referee Preston Hamilton, who is black, in the chest and allegedly used a racial slur during an argument over homemade wine. Hamilton slammed Maloney to the ground, according to the Courier Post.

Maloney told the newspaper he did not remember making the comments.

After Hamilton reported the incident, Maloney agreed to participate in sensitivity training and an alcohol awareness program. Maloney was to be suspended for one year for his use of the slur and Hamilton would receive the same suspension for assaulting Maloney. Both officials appealed their suspensions, which were overturned.

Burroughs said he would reach out to Johnson, calling him brave and courageous in a four-minute Instagram video:

“I didn’t want to talk about it or post anything on social until I actually was educated and knowledgeable about specifically what happened. Now that I’ve done a little bit of research, I feel like I can speak from a position in which I know what I’m talking about a little bit. …

“No. 1, Andrew Johnson, the young man that wrestled last night, congratulations on your overtime win and winning the dual for your teammate. That was a very courageous and a very brave thing that you did. … 

“The fact that with all the adversity and racism that you were facing in the moment, that you were still able to stay focused and go out there and get the W for your team, I respect that about your team.

“The fact that the parents and the coaching staff in that gymnasium allowed for you to be put in this position and didn’t protect you is absolutely shameful because although in that moment with the pressure of your peers and the dual victory on the line, I know that going out there and cutting your hair and getting your hand raised seemed like sticking it to the ref, but ultimately, you know what would have been more powerful? Walking away and saying, you know what, I’m keeping my hair. But man, I can imagine it must have been tough out there on the mat, right? …

“But it wasn’t your job. It was the parents’ job, and you guys let him down. The bottom line is this young man, especially young man in a traditionally and predominantly caucasian sport out there defenseless. You guys gotta help this young man. You’ve got to protect him. In high school, as you’re growing and you’re developing, you’re establishing who you are, you’re creating an identity. I know, as a young black man, how much my hair meant to me. And I also know, as a black man, how long it takes to grow dreads and how much discipline it takes to maintain them.

“The fact that you guys allow him to cut them matside? Look at this man after the match. He won the dual. He won the match in overtime. He showed no excitement, no exhilaration, no celebration. He just shook hands, and he walked off. That was for you guys. It wasn’t for him. So, as excited as you guys were in the stands, deep down inside he was hurting. He was hurt. And that wasn’t fair. So, Andrew, I’m sorry. Parents, come on, we’ve got to do better. Coaches, we’ve got to do better.

“As much as Andrew wanted to be the hero here, coaches, parents, adults, we have to intervene. Alan Maloney, bro, come on, you’ve got to stopped, dog. Like, you have been a referee since I was a kid. You reffed some of my matches when I was in high school, and this isn’t the first incident that you’ve had in South Jersey. I had a lot of respect for you, and I still have a lot of respect for you as a referee, but as an individual, as a man of character and integrity, there’s no way. Listen, you’ve got to step away from the stripes for a second. Put the whistle down and be a man. …

“[Maloney] can’t do this to a young dude. It’s a struggle for him. And it will be because now he’s got to go back to the crib with his head chopped. He went viral for something that he didn’t want to go viral for. Right? So now you’ve got to pay the consequences of your actions and the things that you did. 

“Basically, the bottom line is, Andrew, I’m sorry. Alan, you’ve got to be stopped. Man, you’re going to face consequences, and rightfully so. Parents and coaches, I love you guys. Continue to harbor a safe environment for this dude, right? Give him love. Give him respect. Give him honor. Encourage him. Andrew, you’re the man. I appreciate you. I’m going to be in contact with you very soon. So if you are listening to this, please send me a DM. I want to get in touch with you. I’m going to send you a few cool things for Christmas. I know it won’t help ease the pain, but hopefully it gives you a little bit of love.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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VIDEO: Kyle Snyder pinned in Rematch of the Century

Three questions with Tarah Kayne and Danny O’Shea before the U.S. Championships

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2016 U.S. national champions Tarah Kayne and Danny O’Shea changed coaches to kick off the new season. Now under Dalilah Sappenfield in Colorado Springs, the oft-injured team said they’re healthier than ever heading into the U.S. Championships this weekend in Detroit.

The 2018 Four Continents Champions got off to a “slow start” this year, with a seventh place finish a silver medal on the Challenger Series. On the Grand Prix series, though, they had a fifth place finish in Japan and a silver medal-performance in France. It was their first-ever Grand Prix medal. They told reporters on a media teleconference ahead of nationals that both of their Grand Prix performances “showed growth.” Since then, they’ve spent time drilling on their programs.

Here’s what we learned from their teleconference:

1. They’ve made huge strides from where they are today compared to where they were this time before nationals a year ago.

Tarah Kayne: “There’s a huge difference for me specifically mentally and physically. Last year I was coming off of a right knee surgery where I had my patella tendon reconstructed. For nationals, we were just getting started back into competitive shape. We had maybe a handful of free skate run-throughs under our belts going into nationals. I was just starting to get comfortable doing throws again. We were purposefully trying to make our throws smaller to cut back the impact on my right knee, and to make it as safe as possible.”

“Now this season, I am feeling so much healthier and stronger. We’re making our throws bigger again! Which is a great feeling for me to feel comfortable and to be in that place physically. And also mentally to feel safe doing that. A huge part of that has been being at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs and training under Dalilah who I find to be very empowering.”

Danny O’Shea: “We’re healthy. That’s been the goal for a very long time. We have been elusive for a lot of our career so far. Feeling healthy going into nationals is a very comforting place to be in. Not having to scramble, rely purely on mental toughness to overcome what may be a lack of physical training is a very nice place to be in.

2. They feel like they got a fresh start under their new coach.

TK: “With Dalilah, we started from scratch. We just came to her and let her mold us. Whatever she wanted us to do, we did. We didn’t question things. We didn’t say, ‘that’s not how we do things, how we’re used to.’ We just let her change whatever she wanted to change because we didn’t want to get the same results we have always gotten. We wanted to improve. We wanted to be bigger; we wanted to be better; we wanted to be faster.”

DO: “When you’re with a coach for seven years as a team, things are second-nature. There’s been definite differences in what we’ve been doing throughout the year. Some took some getting used to. Some were very comfortable right off the bat. Overall, it’s been a positive for us and that we’re in a very good place physically right now, which is helping us be able to train hard and keep pushing throughout the year.”

3. Kayne and O’Shea don’t want anyone else to miss out on the Olympics (like they did, as 2018 Olympic alternates) or the world championships. And with only one U.S. pair spot at Worlds this year, they know what’s at stake.

DO: “It’s on our minds.”

TK: “It’s a hard job. It’s a hard position to be in. I wish I wasn’t in this position. I would love to be walking into this with three spots and have a little bit of wiggle room… it’s a job. I have to go and do my job at nationals to get to Worlds. And then I have to do my job at Worlds to make sure no one else is in this position again… We’re capable at this place and time to accomplish that goal for ourselves and for the United States.”

DO: “We have always gone into nationals trying to skate our best, but this year we know we have to go and do that and we have to win. You wanna go into every competition to try and be your best, but with the way things are, we’re going in to win nationals and make that world team again, and go to Worlds and start turning this around. We don’t want to have one spot for Worlds or one spot for the Olympics any longer.”

MORE: Three questions with Alexa Scimeca Knierim and Chris Knierim

As a reminder, you can watch the U.S. Championships live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. Go to NBCsports.com/gold/figure-skating to sign up for access to every ISU Grand Prix and championship event, as well as domestic U.S. Figure Skating events throughout the season. NBC Sports Gold gives subscribers an unprecedented level of access on more platforms and devices than ever before.

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U.S. junior champions crowned in ladies’ and men’s events

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Gabriella Izzo is the newest junior ladies’ national champion, crowned this week at the U.S. Championships in Detroit. Junior ladies’ national champions of the past include eventual Olympians Mirai Nagasu, Gracie Gold, Polina Edmunds and Bradie Tennell.

Izzo had a commanding lead after the short program, with 60.97 points, where she pulled off her first-ever triple Lutz, triple loop combination in competition. (However, it was deemed under-rotated.) Regardless, her 111.45 points in the free skate combined for 172.42 points and the gold medal.

Audrey Shin, who actually won the free skate by just over a point, earned the silver medal with 165.61 points. Emilia Murdock took home the bronze with 154.48 points.

On the junior men’s side, Ryan Dunk rebounded from second after the short program to win the event. His 132.85-point free skate was enough to crack the 200-point overall score, the only man in the field to do so, and win the gold.

Men’s junior champions include eventual world champion Nathan Chen (twice) as well as Olympians Vincent Zhou and Jason Brown.

Dinh Tran finished second with 196.03 points after a fourth-place short program. Joonsoo Kim, who lead after the short program on Tuesday, ended up with the bronze medal with 187.95 points.

NBC Sports Gold’s “Figure Skating Pass” will live stream each junior competition and replays will also be available on-demand. Check out the full schedule and live streaming information here.

The junior rhythm dance took place earlier Wednesday. Siblings Caroline and Gordon Green lead the field with 70.82 points, while Avonley Nguyen and Vadym Kolesnik are second with 65.92 points. The brother-sister team of Oona and Gage Brown are in third with 63.34 heading into Friday’s junior free dance.

Also Wednesday, Laiken Lockley and Keenan Prochnow took the lead in the junior pairs’ short program. The junior pairs’ free skate is Thursday. Kate Finster and Balazs Nagy are second, followed by Isabelle Martins and Ryan Bedard in third.

MORE: Full streaming schedule

As a reminder, you can watch the junior and senior U.S. Championships live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. Go to NBCsports.com/gold/figure-skating to sign up for access to every ISU Grand Prix and championship event, as well as domestic U.S. Figure Skating events throughout the season. NBC Sports Gold gives subscribers an unprecedented level of access on more platforms and devices than ever before.

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