The US lawmakers on Friday hailed the International Basketball Federation's (FIBA) move towards ending its "discriminatory policy" that prevented Sikh basketball players from participating in international matches with turbans. "We're thrilled that the board has endorsed a change that, if adopted, will let Sikhs and other athletes who wear articles of faith and play," Chairman of the Democratic Caucus, Joe Crowley and co-chair of the House Caucus on India and Indian-Americans, Ami Bera, said in a joint statement. The board's recommendation will be considered when its mid-term Congress meets in May.
Crowley and Bera issued the statement after the FIBA's central board announced it supports a change in policy that requires Sikhs and other players to remove their articles of faith, such as turbans, in international competition.
Following a meeting of FIBA's Central Board on January 27 and 28 in Switzerland, the body had said: "After initiating a revision process of the headgear rule (Article 4.4.2) of the Official Basketball Rules in September 2014, the Board received a report on the impact of the exceptions applied on a domestic level during a two-year period.
"It (the board) favoured a modification of the rule and issued a mandate for the Technical Commission to come forward with a proposal that would allow headgear to be worn safely by athletes. This will be presented to the Mid-Term Congress in May," FIBA said.
The two leaders said they will be closely monitoring the situation going forward to ensure the entire FIBA Congress adopts the change by May this year.
"While it should have never taken this long for the board to endorse this change, we're glad that FIBA is moving ahead. There is no evidence that turbans or religious headgear pose a threat to players, and FIBA's policy has not only been outdated, but discriminatory," they said.
"We're glad FIBA is moving in the right direction and we look forward to a final change soon," the joint statement said.
(With inputs from PTI)