FINA to Review Decision Regarding Afro Swim Caps – Swim caps designed specifically to protect the natural hair of black swimmers were banned by the International Swimming Federation (FINA) on Friday. However, due to an immense and deserve amount of backlash, FINA has said that they are currently reviewing their previous decision.
Soul Cap, a company based in the UK, makes products specifically tailored to protect and nourish the natural hair of black swimmers, be it dreadlocks, afros, weaves, braids, thick hair, or curly hair.
“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,” Co-founders Toks Ahmed and Michael Chapman wrote in a statement shared on Instagram. “For younger swimmers, feeling included and seeing yourself in a sport at a young age is crucial. FINA’s recent dismissal could discourage many younger athletes from pursuing the sport as they progress through local, county and national competitive swimming.”
FINA’s decision affects swimmers on all levels, from the Olympics to local swim leagues. Hair has been a huge obstacle for black athletes pursuing their swimming dreams for a long time. The natural hair of black swimmers is much drier than the hair of people from other ethnic backgrounds, because it has fewer cell layers. The bleach and chlorine found in swimming pools can dry it out more, leading to extensive damage.
In response to the online backlash, FINA released a statement, revealing that it is currently reviewing Soul Cap for Olympic competition use.
“FINA is committed to ensuring that all aquatics athletes have access to appropriate swimwear for competition where this swimwear does not confer a competitive advantage,” They wrote. “FINA is currently reviewing the situation with regards to ‘Soul Cap’ and similar products, understanding the importance of inclusivity and representation.”
Alice Dearing, the first black female swimmer to represent Great Britain at the Olympics this year, said that while she is disappointed and devastated by the news, she does not want FINA’s decision to deter young black athletes from pursuing their dreams in professional swimming.
“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.” She said. “I really hope that with it being under review that some agreement will come about, I’m sure it will. Change is happening at least, Soul Cap has been made and even something as simple as that wasn’t around when I started out swimming.”
Despite the discouraging initial news of the rejection, Dearing is hopeful for the future. “It’s brilliant to see so many people passionate about this and wanting to make sure that swimming is open and available to everyone because that is the goal. I’m really hoping to see that this story would have a happy ending and I’m pretty sure it will.”
Hopefully, Dearing is right. Hopefully, FINA will examine their decision and reevaluate it. Hopefully, they will realize how their decision will negatively impact black swimmers and their acceptance in the swimming community. Only time will tell if this decision is overruled.
Allyson Park is a writer and media intern for Knup Sports and the Sports 2.0 Network covering a variety of topics, including football, soccer, and baseball. Connect with Allyson on Instagram @allysonpark01.