Washington: Two leading US lawmakers have expressed disappointment over the decision of FIBA to continue with its policy to ban players from wearing headgears in international matches, even though it allowed them to sport religious headgear as part of a "trial period" for two years.
"We are deeply disappointed with the International Basketball Federation (FIBA). It shouldn't take two years to make what should be a simple decision to eliminate a discriminatory practice," Congressman Joe Crowley and Ami Bera said in a joint statement.
The two Democratic lawmakers said there is no evidence that turbans or religious headgear pose a threat to players, and it's time for FIBA to do what the rest of the sporting world is doing and let Sikhs play.
"Rest assured, we will continue to closely monitor FIBA's continued actions to ensure they ultimately make the right decision," they said after FIBA announced its governing board's decision.
In the announcement, FIBA also said it will wait until 2016 to make a permanent decision about religious accommodations. Crowley is Co-Chair of the India Caucus in the US House of Representatives while Bera is the only Indian-American in the House of Representatives.
Last month, both led dozens of Members of Congress in a letter to FIBA's president urging the board to update its policies to stop requiring Sikhs to remove their turbans during basketball games. The letter followed an outcry over an incident involving two Sikh players who were told by referees that they must remove their turbans if they were to play in FIBA's Asia Cup.
The players, who have always played in turbans, were told that they were in violation of one of FIBA's official rules, which states, "Players shall not wear equipment (objects) that may cause injury to other players." However, other sports leagues, such as Fedration Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), allow athletes wearing turbans to participate.
The incident involving the two Sikh players has led many to speak out against the FIBA's policy, and sparked a social media campaign using the hashtag #LetSikhsPlay.