February 5, 2017

FIBA board recommends change in "No Headgear" policy which affected Indian basketball players

Three years ago, two Indian basketball players - Amritpal Singh and Amjyot Singh - were denied playing against Japan on the opening night of the 2014 FIBA Asia Cup in Wuhan until the two players of Sikh origin removed their turbans. The FIBA officials at this event were only carrying out the international basketball committee's Article 4.4.2, the "No Headgear" rule, which doesn't allow players wearing headgear such as turbans, hijab, kippah, etc. in their official basketball events. Going against their strict religious and cultural traditions, Amritpal and Amjyot took their turbans off to enter the game eventually that night. Later, to avoid further distractions, the two talented stars cut off their long hair altogether.

It was a controversial moment in international basketball, and soon, voices rose in protest the 'No Headgear in India and around the world, until FIBA announced their decision to review this policy, before eventually, choosing to delay a permanent decision in their Central Board meeting in September 2014.

It seems that now, finally, the association has taken a sure step in the right direction. The FIBA's central board announced it supports a change in the 'No Headgear' policy in international competition. The board's recommendation will be considered when FIBA's mid-term Congress meets in May.

Following a meeting of FIBA's Central Board in Switzerland on January 27-28, FIBA said: "After initiating a revision process of the headgear rule (Article 4.4.2) of the Official Basketball Rules in September 2014, the Board received a report on the impact of the exceptions applied on a domestic level during a two-year period. It (the board) favoured a modification of the rule and issued a mandate for the Technical Commission to come forward with a proposal that would allow headgear to be worn safely by athletes. This will be presented to the Mid-Term Congress in May."

Two top American lawmakers who have fought FIBA against this ban have welcomed the move towards ending its "discriminatory" policy. "We're thrilled that the board has endorsed a change that, if adopted, will let Sikhs and other athletes who wear articles of faith play," Joe Crowley and Ami Bera said in a joint statement.

If this policy is removed, it would be a huge boon for Sikh players who had to make a choice between tradition and sport when facing this dilemma. It will also be a huge respite to Muslim players who prefer to play in a hijab - such as Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir, whose story was featured in UNINTERRUPTED's documentary 'FIBA Allow Hijab'.

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