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HindustanTimes Mon,22 Sep 2014

US lawmakers ask basketball body to end biased policy against Sikhs

letterschd@hindustantimes.com, PTI  Washington, August 20, 2014
First Published: 23:16 IST(20/8/2014) | Last Updated: 23:17 IST(20/8/2014)

A bipartisan group of 20 influential American lawmakers has asked the international basketball federation (FIBA) to end its discriminatory policy against Sikh players who wear the turban, an article of faith.

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"There is no evidence showing that a turban has been dangerous during basketball games or other popular sports events. In fact, there are many examples of Sikhs who have safely competed in basketball at many levels with their articles of faith intact," lawmakers led by Congressmen Joe Crowley and Ami Bera said in a letter sent to FIBA president Yvan Mainini on Tuesday.

In July, two Sikh players were told by referees that they must remove their turban ('patka') if they were to play in FIBA's Asia Cup.

The players, who have always played with the 'patka', were told that they were in violation of one of FIBA's rules, which states, "Players shall not wear equipment (objects) that may cause injury to other players."

However, other sports leagues, such as the International Federation of Association Football and the National Collegiate Athletic Association, allow the participation of athletes wearing the turban.

"Basketball is a beloved team sport that has the ability to bring people of all backgrounds together, regardless of history, culture, language and religion. In addition to becoming one of the most popular sports in many countries, basketball has come to exemplify how those of diverse backgrounds can communicate, coordinate and work together in pursuit of a shared goal," the letter read.

"We believe that makes the basketball court the perfect venue to showcase the diversity of our world and the ways in which sports bring people together," lawmakers said.

The FIBA's governing board is expected to address the issue of players wearing the turban and other headgear during a meeting later this month.

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