Olympic Ban On Swimming Hats Designed For Afro Hair Being Reviewed Following Backlash
Swimming’s governing body says it is reviewing the decision to ban a cap designed for afro hair amid criticism that the move ‘penalised’ Black swimmers.
SOUL CAP, a Black-owned British company that makes swimming hats large enough to comfortably fit afros and braids, had its application to be approved for competitive international swimming rejected last week, after the International Swimming Federation (FINA) ruled that to its ‘best knowledge, the athletes competing at the International events never used, neither require to use, caps of such size and configuration’.
The decision sparked major outcry on social media, with the company’s co-founders issuing a statement saying the ban represented a ‘‘failure to acknowledge the diversity of competitive swimmers’.
According to the BBC, FINA now says that that it is ‘reviewing the situation’ and defended itself against accusations of racism, saying it understood ‘the importance of inclusivity and representation’.
It said in a statement:
Fina is committed to ensuring that all aquatics athletes have access to appropriate swimwear for competition where this swimwear does not confer a competitive advantage.
Following the announcement of the ban, people have been speaking out about the barriers in place for Black swimmers.
‘I was a competitive swimmer as a child and the regular swim caps used to be such a pain,’ tweeted @mochievous. ‘I remember begging my mom to shave off my hair before one competition because I just didn’t want to wear a painful swimming cap.’
Danielle Obe, a co-founder of the Black Swimming Association, told The Guardian, ‘Hair is a significant issue for our community,’ explaining, ‘We need the space and the volume which products like the Soul Caps allow for. Inclusivity is realising that no one head shape is ‘normal’.’
In their statement on Instagram, SOUL CAP co-founders Toks Ahmed and Michael Chapman said that they had designed the hats after speaking with Black women about the lack of suitable swimwear for their hairstyles.
‘We’ve since helped thousands of swimmers find their love for the water, by giving them the freedom to not have to choose between the sport they love and the hair they love.’
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