Jul 3, 2021 - Sports

Swimming caps for natural Black hair banned from Tokyo Olympics

Picture of Alice Dearing
Alice Dearing, the first Black female swimmer to be part of the British Olympic team. Photo: Clive Rose/Getty Images

The International Swimming Federation (FINA) said that swimming caps designed for natural Black hair have been banned from use in this summer's Tokyo Olympics, BBC News reports.

Driving the news: Soul Cap, the British Black-owned company that made the caps, told BBC that FINA argued the hats do not "fit the natural form of the head" and that to their "best knowledge the athletes competing at the international events never used, neither require to use, caps of such size and configuration."

  • Soul Cap submitted an application last year to the group to have its products officially recognized.
  • The company recently partnered with Alice Dearing, the first Black female swimmer to be part of the British Olympic team.

What they're saying: "For younger swimmers, feeling included and seeing yourself in a sport at a young age is crucial. FINA’s recent dismissal could discourage many younger athletes from pursuing the sport as they progress through local, county and national competitive swimming," Soul Cap co-founders Toks Ahmed and Michael Chapman said in a statement.

  • "We feel there’s always room for improvement, but there’s only so much grassroots and small brands can do — we need the top to be receptive to positive change," they added.

FINA's decision received backlash, with Danielle Obe, the founding member of the Black Swimming Association, telling the Guardian that it "confirms a lack of diversity in [the sport]."

  • Obe said that the original swim cap was created to prevent Caucasian hair from sticking to swimmer's faces, and added that the caps did not work for Black hair because it "defies gravity."
  • "We need the space and the volume which products like the Soul Caps allow for. Inclusivity is realizing that no one head shape is ‘normal,'" Obe added.

But, but, but: FINA released a statement later saying it "is currently reviewing the situation with regards to 'Soul Cap' and similar products, understanding the importance of inclusivity and representation."

  • FINA did not fully reverse the ban, but encouraged the caps' use "for recreational and teaching purposes." It also said it will speak with Soul Cap to use their caps in "FINA Development Centers."
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