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Black Swimmers Fight FINA’s Decision to Ban Natural Hair Swim Caps, Organization Reportedly Reviewing Decision After Fall-Out 

Just one week after the International Swimming Federation (FINA) revealed its decision not to allow swimming caps explicitly made for natural hair into this year’s Olympics, the governing body for water sports is now saying it’s “reviewing” its verdict following immense backlash from athletes and the public. 

In a statement posted to its official site, FINA stated that it is “committed to ensuring that all aquatics athletes have access to appropriate swimwear for competition where this swimwear does not confer a competitive advantage.” It continued, “FINA is currently reviewing the situation with regards to ‘Soul Cap’ and similar products, understanding the importance of inclusivity and representation.” The organization also highlighted that there was “no restriction on ‘Soul Cap’ swim caps for recreational and teaching purposes.” 

Alice Dearing of Great Britain looks on prior to the Women’s 400 Individual Medley Final on Day 2 of the Manchester International Swimming Meet 2021 at the Manchester Aquatics Centre on February 13, 2021 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)

FINA’s announcement comes after mounting backlash from critics who believed the organization failed to realize the significance of the swim cap as it pertained to inclusivity and representation. As stated by the U.K.’s Black Swimming Association, a group co-founded by 24-year-old Black Alice Dearing, said, “We believe this statement made by FINA confirms what we already know: the lack of diversity in elite swimming and in the higher positions in global aquatics and the lack of urgency for change.” 

Recently, Dearing became the first Black female swimmer to represent Great Britain at the Olympics. She, too, has sported a Soul Cap and shared her thoughts on the matter while speaking with Sky Sports News, stating, “The issue with this story is 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. It is open to them, I really hope that with it being under review that some agreement will come about, I’m sure it will.”

Swimmers denied wearing special caps for natural hair designed by Soul Cap. Photo: @soulcapofficial/Instagram
Swimmers denied wearing special caps for natural hair designed by Soul Cap. Photo: @soulcapofficial/Instagram

She continued, “I don’t want people to look at elite level swimming and think: ‘It’s not open for me, I can’t wear my hair the way I want to and I’ll go and find another sport,’ because that’s not what we want. 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.”

As previously reported, Soul Cap, a Black-owned brand created by Michael Chapman and Toks Ahmed, had their application for certification into the Tokyo Olympics rejected after FINA ruled that to their “best knowledge, the athletes competing at the international events never used, neither require to use, caps of such size and configuration.” They further added that the caps did not follow “the natural form of the head.”

Though let down by the judgment, Ahmed said the business partners said, “Don’t see this rejection as a setback, but rather a chance to open up an important dialogue and make a bigger difference.”

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