By Ashton Chugh
Referees banned team India players from wearing turbans during matches in the International Basketball Federation’s Asia World Cup (FIBA) this July.
FIBA officials said the Indian players were in violation of article 4.4.2, which states, “Players shall not wear equipment (objects) that may cause injury to other players.”
A turban is a soft cloth wrapped around an individuals hair. It’s seen in Sikhism as a symbol of honour and respect to God and other people. As a religious observance, Sikhs do not cut their hair, and a turban is also used as protection for it.
The incident first took place on July 12 during a FIBA game between India and Japan. Indian players Amrit Pal Singh and Amjyot Singh were forced right before tipoff to remove their turbans in front of spectators.
The two players obliged and stepped aside to remove their turban and re-tie their hair. They continued to play and India lost the game 75–52. Amrit Pal Singh scored a game high 15–points for India.
A day before the tournament, India’s Head Coach, Scott Flemming, was told by officials that the players on his team could wear their turbans for the match. Article 4.4.2 was previously in place, but historically, had not been enforced.
In an open letter to FIBA president Yvan Mainini, US Congressman Joe Crowley wrote, “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.”
The letter was co-signed by Indian-American Congressman Ami Bera.
Quebec is the only province in Canada that has a ban on religious headwear. In 2013, the Quebec Soccer Federation disallowed 18-year-old Aneel Samra from playing soccer while wearing a turban. In response FIFA changed their stance to allow it’s players to wear turbans.
The initial incident sparked global outrage on twitter with #LetSikhsPlay trending worldwide.