The International Basketball Federation announced this week that it will reconsider, and possibly eliminate its ban on playing the game with religious headgears, bringing cheers to Sikhs and other religious minorities who have been forced to choose between the religion and the game.
The announcement by the federation Jan. 30 was greeted by the Sikh Coalition which with its partners has been publicly pressuring the FIBA to lift its ban on religious headgear and to put an end to its discriminatory rules.
“We look forward to reviewing the policy and the steps for approval, and we’re optimistic that this announcement represents positive progress,” said Sikh Coalition Senior Religion Fellow, Simran Jeet Singh.
“If approved, this policy will set a powerful precedent that opens doors for religious minorities including Sikhs and Muslims.”
The revised policy will be presented to a full FIBA body in May.
The announcement about the expected change in policy was welcomed in Washington by Reps. Joe Crowley (D-NY), Chairman of the Democratic Caucus, and Ami Bera (D-CA), the Co-Chair of the House Caucus on India and Indian American Affairs who have been forcefully advocating for such a change since 2014 along with 20 other members of the Congress, and had sent letters to FIBA, urging it to change its policy that has required Sikhs and other players to remove their articles of faith, such as turbans, in international competitions.
“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,” said Crowley and Bera in a joint statement. “While it should have never taken this long for the board to endorse this change, we’re glad that FIBA is moving ahead. There is no evidence that turbans or religious headgear pose a threat to players, and FIBA’s policy has been not only outdated, but discriminatory,” they said.
“We will be closely monitoring this situation going forward to ensure the entire FIBA Congress adopts the change this coming May.”