Chairman Crowley, Rep. Bera Urge International Basketball Federation to Change Discriminatory Policy Against Sikh Players

May 3, 2017

(Washington, DC) – Ahead of the International Basketball Federation’s (FIBA) long-awaited decision on its discriminatory policy requiring players to remove articles of faith, such as turbans, during play, House Democratic Chairman Rep. Joe Crowley, Rep. Ami Bera (D-Calif.) and 27 House Democrats have sent a letter to the federation stating their strong support for a change in policy.

FIBA is expected to announce the decision during its May 4-5 meeting, after a years-long campaign led by Reps. Crowley and Bera on behalf of athletes who wear articles of faith, including Muslim, Sikh, and Jewish competitors.

“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,” the letter states. “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.”

The letter continues, “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.”

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 Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), allow athletes wearing turbans to participate. Sikhs and others have thrived in NCAA competition.

Crowley and Bera have waged a three-year campaign for a change in the policy, which could also lead to greater opportunities for Jewish and Muslim athletes.

Read the letter here.