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SVGOC: Whose head are they using for yardstick?! Olympic ban of ‘Soul Caps’ is discrimination

“[…] That Fina dares to state that the ‘Soul Cap’ does not follow ‘the natural form of the head’ must be seen for the discrimination that it really is. It exposes the organisation’s seemingly inherent bias. 

“[…] Our analysis suggests very strongly that the decision of Fina to ban the ‘Soul Caps’ falls within the growing tendency to infringe on the rights of individual athletes of a particular ethnic grouping which has been using it for their unique circumstances…”

The following letter, which objects to the Fina (International Swimming Federation) ban on Soul Caps for the Tokyo Olympic Games, was submitted by St Vincent and the Grenadines Olympic Committee (SVGOC) general secretary Keith Joseph to International Olympic Committee (IOC) deputy director general Pere Miro on Friday 2 July 2021:

Photo: A young woman models the Soul Cap which, according to the founders, is ‘an extra-large swimming cap created for swimmers who struggle with their hair’.
(via Soul Cap)

Dear Mr Miro, 

The St Vincent and the Grenadines Olympic Committee (SVGOC) has been apprised by its member federation, the St Vincent and the Grenadines Swimming Federation (SVGASA) of Fina’s decision in respect of banning the so-called, ‘Soul Cap’ from competition.

Our understanding of the fundamental principles of the IOC’s Charter speaks to a vehement rejection of discrimination of any sort in the field of sport. Unfortunately, our interpretation of the aforementioned ban on a cap that adequately addresses the hair and hairstyles of black athletes in particular, constitutes a breach of the fundamental principles of the Olympic Movement.

Indeed, there is no scientific basis on which to justify Fina’s action. That Fina dares to state that the ‘Soul Cap’ does not follow ‘the natural form of the head’ must be seen for the discrimination that it really is. It exposes the organisation’s seemingly inherent bias.

There was never any determination that swim caps should follow ‘the natural form of the head’. Indeed we must as of Fina, whose head are they using as their yardstick in this matter?

Photo: Cherelle Thompson will represent Trinidad and Tobago in the 50m freestyle at the Tokyo Olympic Games.
(via Caribbean Digest)

We are aware that sport, as an institution in society, reflects the beliefs and values of society. In today’s world, we continue to see signs of a resurgence of systemic racism evidenced in newer yet sinister forms.

Our analysis suggests very strongly that the decision of Fina to ban the ‘Soul Caps’ falls within the growing tendency to infringe on the rights of individual athletes of a particular ethnic grouping which has been using it for their unique circumstances.

We, therefore, request an urgent analysis of the situation and urge the rejection of the decision by Fina, thereby ensuring that it is not implemented at this year’s Olympics and in the sport itself under any circumstance. We look forward to our request receiving most favourable consideration.

Editor’s Note: A statement from Fina, on 2 July 2021, said the global swimming body is ‘currently reviewing’ the ‘Soul Cap’ but reiterated that the swimwear is not allowed in competitive swimming at present.

Photo: Husain Al Musallam, a former Kuwaiti international swimmer and airline pilot, was elected as Fina president on 5 June 2021.
(via Eurosport)

(Fina release)

Fina is committed to ensuring that all aquatics athletes have access to appropriate swimwear for competition where this swimwear does not confer a competitive advantage. Fina is currently reviewing the situation with regards to ‘Soul Cap’ and similar products, understanding the importance of inclusivity and representation.

There is no restriction on ‘Soul Cap’ swim caps for recreational and teaching purposes. Fina appreciates the efforts of ‘Soul Cap’ and other suppliers to ensure everyone has the chance to enjoy the water. Fiina will also speak with the manufacturer of the ‘Soul Cap’ about utilising their products through the Fina Development Centres.

Fina expects to make its consideration of ‘Soul Cap’ and similar products part of wider initiatives aimed at ensuring there are no barriers to participation in swimming, which is both a sport and a vital life skill.

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One comment

  1. They will ban this cap but if a faux femme wants to participate as a woman then no problem. I wouldn’t even have asked them if it’s allowed. Just show up with the cap on, or is this some kind of totalitarian event where they make people prove that what they have on is sport legal. Maybe the problem is the name and that is from some no name brand. Now if Nike, Adidas or Puma bring such a cap then it will quickly be allowed.