The wrestling referee at the center of what became a national controversy has reportedly taken the first steps toward filing a lawsuit for defamation and emotional distress.

In December 2018, New Jersey wrestling referee Alan Maloney made a high school wrestler choose between forfeiting a match or cutting his dreadlocks. The wrestler, Andrew Johnson, decided to allow his hair to be cut, but was clearly distressed about it according to video of the incident. Many who saw the video believed that Maloney’s insistence that the Johnson cut his hair was racially biased. After the incident, Maloney was barred by the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association from officiating meets pending the outcome of investigations by the organization and the state Division of Civil Rights.

In the wake of the ensuing firestorm, reports that Maloney has sent a “notice of tort claim” to 12 possible defendants — including the NJSIAA, Buena School district officials and coaches — alleging that he has suffered $100,000 in damages.

Maloney defended himself in his filing, saying that he was simply following NJSIAA rules regarding hair. Meanwhile, Dominic Speziali, an attorney representing Johnson and his family, maintains that Johnson’s hair fell within regulations regarding length, and that he was treated unfairly.

The investigations into Maloney’s conduct are ongoing, so it remains unclear whether he’ll be allowed to return to the mat.

Jason Scott is Online Managing Editor of Athletic Business.