Washington: The International Basketball Federation (FIBA) has decided to delay the review of its discriminatory policy against Sikh basketball players who wear turbans, drawing sharp reactions from top American lawmakers and Sikh bodies which described it as "outdated".
"Every day FIBA delays is another day that Sikhs can't play. Allowing Sikhs to play while wearing their turban is a no-brainer, and we're disappointed that FIBA has delayed their review of a policy that can only be described as outdated, discriminatory, and totally inconsistent with the ideals of team sports," Congressmen Joe Crowley and Ami Bera, the lone Indian-American Congressman, said in a joint statement.
"We urge the board to stop delaying and let Sikhs play," they said.
Last week, Crowley and Bera 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 Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), allow athletes wearing turbans to participate.
The International Basketball Federation (FIBA) on Thursday announced that it will not reverse an article which bans players from wearing dastaars (turbans) on the court.
Instead, FIBA will delay its decision: "The Central Board decided...it requires further analysis before a final decision is made. Both the Technical and Legal Commissions shall study and present options to the Central Board."
"It is disappointing that FIBA has decided to let bureaucracy stand in the way of progress and religious freedom. The FIBA Basketball World Cup starts on Saturday, August 30, 2014. While FIBA presents itself as a representative of global sport this weekend, Sikh players will still be forced to choose between playing a game they love and following their religious beliefs," the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund said in a statement.
"Justice delayed is justice denied," said Sapreet Kaur, executive director of the Sikh Coalition.
"For many decades, Sikh athletes have participated in competitive sports throughout the world, including NCAA basketball, while wearing their turbans. We are disappointed that FIBA has once again failed to use common sense, and we call on FIBA to stop discriminating against religious minorities," she said.
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