Appalled by reports that Sikh players from India were asked to remove their turbans at an international basketball match, top US lawmakers have launched a campaign asking the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) to review the discriminatory policy.
"We are concerned about recent reports indicating that Sikhs are not able to participate in International Basketball Federation (FIBA) games while wearing a turban, which is essential to their faith, and ask you to change this discriminatory policy," said a letter addressed to Yvan Mainini, FIBA president.
Led by Congressman Joe Crowley, the letter began circulating at the US Congress yesterday. Indian-American Congressman Ami Bera has signed the letter as co-lead.
"We hope that you will carefully re-examine the existing policy with respect to Sikh turbans and support a change when FIBA's Central Board next meets," the letter said. It would soon be sent to FIBA headquarters in Switzerland.
The letter says Sikh players participating within FIBA were told that their turbans violate Article 4.4.2 of FIBA's official rules, which states that "Players shall not wear equipment (objects) that may cause injury to other players." There is no evidence showing that a turban has been dangerous during basketball games or other popular sports events, the Congressmen argue.
"In fact, there are many examples of Sikhs who have safely competed in basketball at many levels with their articles of faith intact," the letter says.
The letter cited the example of Darsh Preet Singh who captained the basketball team at Trinity University while maintaining his turban throughout a successful career at the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).
Singh has become a model of success for Sikhs across America and the world, and has shown that a Sikh turban neither hinders nor endangers NCAA competitors, it said.
Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) recently changed its policies to allow Sikhs to wear turbans while playing soccer.
Secretary General Jerome Valcke said in announcing the decision: "You cannot have discrimination," the letter noted. "Basketball is a beloved team sport that has the ability to bring people of all backgrounds together, regardless of history, culture, language, and religion.
"In addition to becoming one of the most popular sports in many countries, basketball has come to exemplify how those of diverse backgrounds can communicate, coordinate, and work together in pursuit of a shared goal," the letter said.
"We believe that makes the basketball court the perfect venue to showcase the diversity of our world and the ways in which sports bring people together," the Congressmen said.