Indian rapper and music producer 'Yo Yo Honey Singh' is the latest celebrity to hop on the bandwagon, signing a petition and actively leading a campaign urging calling more people to show their support for allowing Sikh players to wear the turban while playing.
He has urged the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) President Yvan Mainini to remove the ban as turbans are believed to be a religious identity for the Sikhs. FIBA has banned the headgear for international Sikh players.
Singh also tells all his Punjabi brothers and fans all over the world to stand up against FIBA's unacceptable ban. The petition can be signed on change.org. On Twitter, people have been protesting the turban ban using the hastag #LetSikhsPlay.
What exactly happened?
Last month, FIBA officials had forced two Indian Sikh basketball players to remove their turbans, in their game against Japan at the Asian Championship in China, citing that it might be dangerous to play wearing turbans. It was the first time FIBA invoked article 4.4.2 in an official senior level basketball game. The article states, “Players shall not wear equipment (objects) that may cause injury to other players," including headgear.” The move against the Indian Sikh players Amritpal Singh and Amjyot Singh invited outrage on social media and the internet.
According to their religion, Sikhs are required to sport a turban over uncut hair. But the distraught duo, not wanting to adversely impact the game, sported headbands and played on.
Although India's American coach Scott Fleming pleaded with the officials as the pair did not even feature in the starting five, only after they parted with their turbans were they allowed to play in the first quarter.
Such objections were never raised in the past against Sikhs wearing turbans on court. "We have always played in turbans, even in last year's FIBA Asian Championship in Manila and also the recently held Lusofonia Games in Goa. "This Asia Cup was a memorable event for all of us. But the controversy left both of us distressed. I wear a turban in practice too, and it was strange to not have it on during the game. Playing in the Japan game without it felt very awkward," Amritpal told media sources.
Basketball blogger Karan Madhok on his blog Hoopistani said that after raising a hue and cry and pressure from many sides asking FIBA to review its uncompliable rules after the incident, FIBA announced that their Central Board will soon review their 'no headgear' rule, after a formal request to do so by the Basketball Federation of India (BFI) at the FIBA Asia Congress a few days ago.
Darsh Preet Singh, the first ever Sikh-American player to ply his trade at the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) program in USA, said, "To a Sikh, their dastar is part of their body, a reminder that everyone is equal, and that their spirituality should always be integrated in their decision-making and what they contribute to their community. Even if I was the only Sikh-American on the court, I never felt out of place with Coach Maxwell and my team by my side," he told the media.
— D Singh (@darshpreetsingh) August 22, 2014
For 22-year-old Amjyot, India's most consistent scorer in the championship, the ban seemed a bit odd as he had never experienced something like this before. "Wearing a turban is a part of me. When they told us we couldn't play with one it felt very awkward. But for the team we decided to play without turbans. From the next game onwards we tied our hair with a band and it was really awkward," said Amjyot to the media.
Both the Indian players were not allowed to wear the turbans in the remaining six matches over eight days.
In the news for the wrong reasons, again
But this is not the first time FIBA is in the news for wrong reasons. In an Under-18 tournament the players of Maldives team were asked to do away with their Hijabs.
The lone Sikh player representing the Indian subcontinent Anmol Singh was asked to remove his patka/ headgear during the warm-up before their opening encounter against hosts Qatar at 23rd Fiba Asia U-18 Championship.
Amritpal Singh and Amjyot Singh fear not being able to play outside India in future as their parents have concerns and do not want their sons playing without turbans.
Coach Flemming was shocked. "I am personally against a rule that infringes on someone's religious beliefs. A headgear does not cause any harm to others."
Elaborating the whole incident, Flemming said, "A day before the Japan game I spent a long time making officials understand our point. I finally thought we had got the OK for our players to wear turbans during match. But to my shock just before the start of the match I was told that there is misunderstanding on what we had agreed upon. We were left with no choice" he told an Indian newspaper.
He further added, "I would never ask my players to do anything against their religious practices. It was up to them. It was very difficult but I think they both handled it well."
Social media taken by storm:
— impreet singh bakshi (@impreetsbakshi) July 23, 2014
— Prabhjot Singh (@prabhjotsinghNY) July 23, 2014
— Amardeep Singh (@amarHoboken) August 22, 2014
— World Sikh Org (@WorldSikhOrg) July 22, 2014
The Sikh American community representatives, SALDEF (Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund) tweeted:
Former Indian athlete 'Flying Sikh' Milkha Singh, his son Jeev Milkha Singh and professional golfer and cricketer Bishan Singh Bedi have also voiced their opinions and displayed their angst against FIBA's policy of not allowing Sikh players to not sport turbans. Both Milkha Singh and Bedi have joined hands to launch an online petition to protest against against Sikh basketball players not being able to wear patkas.
Lets not divide sport on the basis of religion. Its sad that FIBA has banned turban from basketball matches.
— Jeev Milkha Singh (@JeevMilkhaSingh) August 21, 2014