US lawmakers ask basketball federation to change policy against turbaned Sikhs

Photo: Basketball Federation of India

Washington (PTI): Two top Democratic lawmakers on Wednesday urged a top sports body to change its discriminatory policy against Sikh players that requires them to remove their turbans during a game.

The appeal by Congressmen Joe Crowley and Ami Bera comes ahead of the International Basketball Federation’s (FIBA) long-awaited decision on the discriminatory policy requiring players to remove articles of faith, such as turbans, during a game.

FIBA is expected to announce its decision this week after many years of campaign led by Crowley and Bera on behalf of athletes who wear articles of faith.

“People throughout the US and around the world know that athletics, including basketball, are a way of bringing people together. Children and youth of many different faiths and backgrounds have long met on the playground to exercise and compete while building camaraderie, resilience, and friendship,” the two lawmakers said in a letter to FIBA.

“As you know, Sikhs and others have participated successfully in basketball competitions here in the United States, including NCAA players at the college level. Sikhs and others have also participated in Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) matches without any problems,” Crowley and Bera wrote.

After nearly three years of review, Crowley and Bera exuded confidence that FIBA will see the wisdom in the reversal of its existing policy, and ensure that basketball will continue to be the unifying sport it is intended to be.

FIBA’s discriminatory policy came to light in 2014 when 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 had 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, there is no evidence that a Sikh turban poses a threat to cause injury, and other sports leagues, such as FIFA and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), allow athletes wearing turbans to participate.