ICYMI: Congressman Ami Bera Leads Effort to End Discriminatory Practices Against Sikh Basketball Players in Advance of Summer Olympic Games | Congressman Ami Bera

ICYMI: Congressman Ami Bera Leads Effort to End Discriminatory Practices Against Sikh Basketball Players in Advance of Summer Olympic Games

Aug 4, 2016
Press Release
Sikh Players Prevented from Playing Basketball Because of Religious Turbans | Bera and Crowley Renew Push They Began Nearly Two Years Ago

Washington, D.C. – In advance of the Summer Olympic Games in Rio, Congressman Ami Bera (CA-7), currently the only Indian American Member of Congress, and Congressman Joe Crowley (NY-14) are calling on the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) to change its policy and allow observant Sikhs to participate in international basketball competition. The Press Trust of India reported on the renewed push that Bera and Crowley first began nearly two years ago.  Presently, FIBA's policies prevent observant Sikhs from playing basketball while wearing a small turban, even though the Sikh turban doesn’t interfere with participation in sports and poses no danger to fellow players.

Congressman Bera has been a champion for religious expression for Sikhs, and has been vocal on the right to wear articles of faith while in police uniform, serving in the military, and competing in athletic events. He has also successfully fought to put protections in place against hate crimes, discrimination, and bullying targeted at the Sikh community. 

The article can be found here, and the text is below:

Allow Sikh  basketball players: US lawmakers

From Lalit K Jha

Top US lawmakers, including an Indian-American Congressman are making a final push to urge the International Basketball Federation to change its policies that discriminates Sikh players over head gear or turbans.

Democratic Congressman Joe Crowley, Vice Chairman of Democratic Caucus and Indian-American Congressman Ami Bera have launched a signature campaign among their Congressional colleagues to write a letter to the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) maintaining their support for a change in the policy that requires Sikhs and other players to remove their articles of faith, such as turbans, in international competitions.

FIBA is weeks away from making such a decision.

"It is long past time that FIBA ends discrimination against observant Sikhs and allows them to participate." 

"Basketball has rapidly become a global sport, popular not only in the United States but in countries like India where many Sikhs proudly participate," the letter currently under circulation among members of the US House of Representatives says.

The letter addressed to the International Basketball Federation chief Horacio Muratori asserts that there is no justification for continuing the ban.

"We strongly appeal to you to quickly announce that observant Sikhs may participate in all FIBA games without being forced to remove their articles of faith," the letter read which is likely to be sent after the Rio Olympics.

Nearly two years ago the federation, after preventing observant Sikhs from participating in international games, announced that it would review its policies and after the 2016 Olympics and make a decision on whether observant Sikh basketball players can participate in future FIBA games.

In explaining its ban of observant Sikhs, FIBA said the wearing of a small turban violated 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." 

"Now, as we are weeks away from FIBA's timeline for a final decision, we reiterate strong Congressional support for a decisive change in FIBA policies," the letter said.

Sikhs participate in a wide variety of sports around the globe, and there has never been a single instance of someone being harmed or injured by a turban, or of a turban interfering with the sport, it added.

At both the amateur and professional levels, Sikhs have already played sports without a problem.

This includes Sikh American Dipanjot Singh, who played Division I basketball at the University of Illinois in Chicago in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) before playing semi-professional basketball in several leagues.

It also includes Darsh Preet Singh, who played at the NCAA level at the University of Texas. Both were beloved by teammates and excelled in their roles.

Darsh's jersey has been at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, DC to help recognise him as the first-ever Sikh-American to play in the NCAA.

Sikh FIFA players wear turbans while playing in international soccer events, the letter says.