Rep. Joe Crowley led a coalition of 20 Members of Congress in sending a letter Tuesday, Aug. 19 to the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) urging the organization to end its discriminatory policy against Sikh basketball players who wear turbans, an important article of faith.
In July, two Sikh players were told by referees that they must remove their turbans if they were to play in FIBA’s Asia Cup. The players, who have always played in turbans, were told that they were in violation of one of FIBA’s official rules, which states, “Players shall not wear equipment (objects) that may cause injury to other players.”
However, other sports leagues, such as Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), allow athletes wearing turbans to participate.
“There is no evidence showing that a turban has been dangerous during basketball games or other popular sports events. In fact, there are many examples of Sikhs who have safely competed in basketball at many levels with their articles of faith intact,” the lawmakers wrote in the letter to FIBA’s president.
The letter continues: “Basketball is a beloved team sport that has the ability to bring people of all backgrounds together, regardless of history, culture, language, and religion. In addition to becoming one of the most popular sports in many countries, basketball has come to exemplify how those of diverse backgrounds can communicate, coordinate, and work together in pursuit of a shared goal. We believe that makes the basketball court the perfect venue to showcase the diversity of our world and the ways in which sports bring people together.”
The incident involving the two Sikh players has led many to speak out against FIBA’s policy, and sparked a social media campaign using the hashtag #LetSikhsPlay.
FIBA’s governing board is expected to address the issue of players wearing turbans and other headgear during a meeting at the end of August.
Earlier this year, Crowley led a major bipartisan coalition in sending a letter to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel urging the Pentagon to allow Sikh Americans to serve in the U.S. military while abiding by their articles of faith, such as wearing a turban or beard.