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There’s a hairy situation brewing ahead of the Tokyo Olympics.The International Swimming Federation has banned the use of “Soul Caps” at this month’s Olympic games. The Soul Cap company’s swim caps are designed for swimmers with thick, curly, and voluminous hair and are popular amongst Black swimmers. Per USA Today, The International Swimming Federation said the following: ” (Soul Caps) do 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 federation’s decision has been met with unease. The founding member of the Black Swimming Association, Danielle Obe, told The Guardian that the ruling has created a sense of exclusion: ” (banning Soul Caps) created a sense of exclusion for members of the black and minority ethnic community,” as other swim caps for Afro hair are difficult to find. If the (official swimming bodies) are talking about representation, they need to speak to the communities to find out what the barriers are that are preventing us from engaging. Hair is a significant issue for our community.” Said Obe.
A swimming cap designed for natural Black hair is banned from the Olympics, reports @guardian.
The Intl Swimming Federation claims the Soul Cap design does not fit "the natural form of the head." Critics say inequalities like lack of proper gear are a barrier to Black swimmers. pic.twitter.com/VBpRqCbTbx
— AJ+ (@ajplus) July 2, 2021
In comments made to USA Today, Brown University’s chair of and a professor of Africana Studies, Noliwe Rooks said the ban seems to derive from a misunderstanding of the texture of Black hair: “The ruling specifically mentioned the fact that Soul Caps do not hug the scalp, but Black hair does not necessarily lay flat against the scalp, and also can have a thickness that makes it impossible to keep a traditional swim cap from filling with water as the athlete swims,” said Rooks.
Now in the deep end of a public relations nightmare, The International Swimming Federation released a statement, saying in part: “(they are) currently reviewing the situation with regards to “Soul Cap” and similar products, understanding the importance of inclusivity and representation.”