“It is a shame that FIBA has decided to let bureaucracy stand in the way of religious freedom,” said Sona Simran Kaur, Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund (SALDEF) Communications Director, after the International Basketball Federation declined to make a decision at its Central Board meeting about players wearing religious headgear, deciding instead to defer to further study.
Despite the fact that other major sports organizations — including the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) — do allow religious headgear to be worn by players during competition, FIBA does not.
Their rule encompasses all headgear, including turbans, hijab, and yarmulkes, per Article 4.4.2 of their rules: “Players shall not wear equipment (objects) that may cause injury to other players.”
There have been several cases in the past year in which Sikh and Muslim players were not allowed to compete unless they uncovered their heads.
“The FIBA Basketball World Cup starts on Saturday, August 30,” said Kaur. “While FIBA presents itself as a representative of global sport, Sikh players will still be forced to choose between playing the game they love and following their religious beliefs.”
“This is an issue of basic morality and ethics, and we hope that FIBA will do the right thing by allowing religious minorities to play basketball freely,” said Simran Jeet Singh, Sikh Coalition Senior Religion Fellow. “It’s time for FIBA to embrace the diverse communities it represents and to modernize its outdated and discriminatory rules.”