International Swimming Federation reconsiders Afro swim caps after backlash

by Erika DuBose
afro swimming cap backlash olympics swimming
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afro swimming cap backlash olympics swimming

FILE – Alice Dearing of Great Britain in the women’s 800m freestyle heats on day ten of the 33rd LEN European Swimming Championships 2016 at the London Aquatics Centre on May 18, 2016, in London, England (Photo by Tom Jenkins/Getty Images)

The International Swimming Federation (FINA), the world governing body for water sports, has decided to ban the use of swim caps for athletes with Afro hair at the Olympics. In a shocking display of explicit racism, the ban was put in place not just for the Olympics but for all international swim competitions.

The backlash from Soul Cap was quick. The premier shop for swim caps that support Afro hair posted its anger on Instagram, “FINA’s recent dismissal could discourage many younger athletes from pursuing the sport as they progress through local, county, and national competitive swimming. We hoped to further our work for diversity in swimming by having our swim caps certified for competition, so swimmers at any level don’t have to choose between the sport they love and their hair.”

In FINA’s decision, the international water sports governing body stated that Soul Caps did not fit “the natural form of the head” and to their “best knowledge the athletes competing at the international events never used, neither require … caps of such size and configuration”.  The ban did not extend to practices or “teaching purposes.”  

Swim caps

Originally, swim caps were designed to protect Caucasian-haired swimmers from their hair flying in their face. No such allowances were made for swimmers with Afro hair, contributing to the unsurprising lack of diversity in the sport. Only 1% of swimmers who are registered with the USA Swimming Foundation are Black.

Black Olympians in swimming are rare, like 24-year-old Alice Dearing, the first Black woman on the Great Britain national team at the Olympics. On Monday, she made her position clear with Sky Sport News. “The issue with this story is I don’t want little Black girls and little Black boys to look at elite swimming and think it is not open to them because that is completely the wrong idea. It is open to them. I’m really hopeful that with it being under review that some agreement will come about.”

Following the backlash, FINA is said to be reconsidering their position. Follow The Black Wall St Times for updates on this story. 

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