We invite you to join a letter to members of the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) urging a final, complete end to the policy that has unfairly and unnecessarily discriminated against members of the Sikh, Muslim, and Jewish faiths.
On May 4-5, 2017, FIBA will hold its mid-term “Congress” at which it may make a final decision on whether to adopt a change in rules that would allow religiously observant athletes to participate in international play. This upcoming Congress will be held nearly three years after an incident in mid-2014 in which Sikh players were required to either leave a FIBA game or remove their turbans – an unfair, unnecessary, and discriminatory choice.
At that time and on multipleoccasions since then, Members of the United States Congress and others have urged FIBA to change its policies, and the Federation agreed to undertake a multi-year period of review and testing, culminating in a final decision sometime after the 2016 Olympics. In January of this year, FIBA’s executive board recommended a change in policies that could, if adopted, allow Sikhs and others to participate – those changes will reportedly be considered by FIBA’s full Congress next month.
We are hoping for a positive conclusion to this extended review. FIBA’s earlier reasoning for refusing to allow Sikhs and others to play – claiming head coverings were “unsafe” – was not backed up by evidence or fact. And, teams in multiple other sports leagues – including the NCAA, FIFA, and others – have allowed Sikhs and others to play without any problems whatsoever. Indeed, turbaned Sikh American athletes have notably thrived at Trinity University in Texas and the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Further, with the spike in hate crimes against minorities in the United States, it is more important than ever to knock down barriers to full participation in public activities, including athletics. Having positive, public role models – in athletics or otherwise – can help decrease tensions, build understanding, and ensure equal opportunity for those of all religious backgrounds.
International Basketball Federation/Federation Internationale de Basketball
Route Suisse 5
1295 Miles – Switzerland
Dear President Muratore,
Many of us have written to FIBA since a 2014 incident in which Sikh basketball players were asked to either leave a game or remove their turbans. This month, the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) will reportedly consider an important change to its rules that may permit observant Sikhs, as well as Jews and Muslims, to participate in international basketball competition. We respectfully request that you convey to the membership of the FIBA Congress our very strong support for change.
People throughout the United States 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.
Here in the United States, basketball games break down social barriers, and give people of different racial, religious, and cultural backgrounds opportunities to learn from each other and build mutual respect and appreciation.
This is why we were so disturbed by the 2014 incident, and subsequently came to learn that FIBA rules also unnecessarily applied to other religious groups. It is also why we were pleased that FIBA subsequently initiated a review of its rules with respect to these practices – a review FIBA indicated would come to a conclusion in the months following the 2016 Olympics. We are aware that the FIBA Central Board examined changes to existing policies at its January 2017 meeting, and is considering final changes during the upcoming May 4-5 FIBA Congress.
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 Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) matches without any problems.
After nearly three years of review, we are confident 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. We look forward to the result of the May 4-5 FIBA Congress.