Washington, Aug 20: A bipartisan group of 20 influential American lawmakers has asked the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) to end its discriminatory policy against Sikh players who wear turbans, an article of faith.
"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," lawmakers led by Congressmen Joe Crowley and Ami Bera said in a letter sent to FIBA's president Yvan Mainini yesterday.
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 International Federation of Association Football and National Collegiate Athletic Association, allow participation of athletes wearing turbans.
"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," the letter read.
"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," lawmakers said. FIBA's governing board is expected to address the issue of players wearing turbans and other headgear during a meeting later this month.