The national media has been reporting extensively on the Buena High School wrestler who was required to cut his hair or forfeit the match. Whether the incident reveals racial bias, that might be a stretch. But it is where the country is right now.
To begin, rules are rules, if you don’t like them, change them. If you chose not to try, or can’t because you’re not in the majority, then either work harder for change or hush up. This official was just enforcing the rules as they are clearly written, not what others seem to be quoting.
Looking at this a little closer, the young man’s coach had to have known that Andrew’s hair and head covering were illegal. If anyone is questioning the issue of his hair, if it were legal, he wouldn’t be using a head cover. As to the legality of his head cover, a week earlier, Andrew’s coach was informed by another referee that what his wrestler was using was illegal. So, the responsibility here has to fall in the coach’s lap for he is the sports first line of defense relative to rule enforcement.
So, one must ask, why is the referee taking the hit?
It seems the coach was the person who kicked the can down the road so he didn’t have to deal with it himself. I say that because I’m not aware of anyone who is coaching at the scholastic level who doesn’t know the rules of the sport, from shoe laces to mustaches, saunas to diuretics.
Now I realize this is an assumption on my part, but I have to believe the coach did say something to Andrew, and maybe on more than one occasion. If he didn’t, who’s at fault here? If he did, who’s at fault here? We shouldn’t blame the cop every time he writes a ticket for speeding, especially after the road signs (rule book) gives us the speed limit and more than likely the driver’s Dad (the coach) warned his son that going over the speed limit might not end well.
Now I understand the referee wasn’t at weigh-ins. That was a mistake. He could have headed off this entire incident before it started.
But what’s a little sketchy right now is it sounds as if there was another official present for weigh-ins. If that was the case, and he didn’t say anything, then he’s the one who should be explaining himself. If there was only the head official, and he missed weigh-ins, then he should have realized he screwed up. The prudent thing to do at that point would have been to turn a blind eye mat side and let it go. Then after the meet, apologize to the coach for not enforcing the rules and remind him that won’t be the case going forward.
Now I realize I just advocated to ignore the rules, exactly the opposite of what I’m espousing. But the infraction in question is similar to going 57mph in a 55mph zone. The embarrassment it caused, and the national attention it attracted for only 2mph over the limit was clearly a penalty that far exceeded the crime.
Should we re-evaluate the tenets of the hair rule going forward, there’s no question. Especially given todays’ social norms and wrestling no longer being a male only sport.
Another question that has to be asked. What about the responsibility all the other referees have who officiated Andrew this year prior to the incident? The hair covering and hair had to have been illegal then too. So why is this referee, who was only enforcing the rules, in the cross hairs? He just did what he was paid to do and expected to do, all be it unpopular to some.
At this point, I don’t see a racial side to the story. Even as politically sensitive as this might be, this is just outside influences grasping at an opportunity to demonstrate moral outrage. Most of those who see this as a skin pigment issue don’t follow wrestling, let alone understand the rules. I get it, hair is personal and a mat-side haircut is shocking for some to watch. But it is the rules, and this wasn’t, by any means, the first time we’ve had haircuts mat side.
The only way I would think this could be considered racism is if this same official allowed some other young man, who looks like him, to wrestle with similar hair length and hair covering. In the absence of any evidence of this, we need to focus on the facts as we know them. But if we find out otherwise, that intolerance did take place, then I agree that this referee should lose his ability to officiate wrestling, or any sport in the future.
On a positive note, Andrew should be applauded for the way he handled a bad situation. Whatever the cause, apart from who was responsible, he wanted to wrestle. If his hair had to go, then it had to go. He was focused on the match, his team and wanting to compete. That rates a big high-five because Andrew overcame this unpleasantness by 1) competing with the same intensity as any champion would and 2) he even won the match in overtime. That couldn’t have been easy. But isn’t that what we know to be great about wrestling; it teaches us to overcome whatever unpleasantness life throws our way?
This too will blow over and the sport, along with Andrew, will be all the stronger. Wrestling teaches us to get up every time we’re knocked down, shrug when we’re bullied and smile if we’re embarrassed. The sport will do its part here, and we need to do ours.
As for our laundry being aired in public, this is a great opportunity, not something we should worry about or sweep under the rug. Adversity always provides opportunities for individuals, and organizations to show their true colors, and in this case, for the world to see wrestling’s greatness.