The SVG Olympic Committee has expressed disappointment and disapproval of the FINA’s ban on the wearing of ‘soul caps’ and has therefore objected to such decision. The committee was informed of this rule by the SVG Swimming Federation (SVGASA), the local committee responsible for water sports. FINA is the International Swimming Federation recognized by the International Olympic Committee.
The cap that is mainly used by Black swimmers during water sporting events is referred to as the ‘soul cap’. Qualities of the cap are its ability to fully cover the head, preventing the hair from getting wet and the ability to keep natural hair moist while swimming. In recent times, many Black swimmers have used the ‘soul cap’ as their protective swim cap.
In a letter dated July 2nd, 2021, Secretary General of the SVG Olympic Committee, Keith Joseph wrote to the Deputy Director General of the International Olympic Committee, raising his concerns on the Fundamental Principles of the International Olympics Committee’s Charter.
Joseph said that the ban on ‘soul cap’ is seen as discriminatory, a behaviour that should not be entertained in Olympism.
“Our understanding of the Fundamental Principles of the IOC’s Charter speaks to a vehement rejection of discrimination of any sort in the field of sport. Unfortunately, our interpretation of the aforementioned ban on a cap that adequately addresses the hair and hairstyles of black athletes in particular, constitutes a breach of the fundamental principles of the Olympic Movement.”
According to FINA, the basis for such decision is that the ‘soul cap’ does not follow “the natural form of the head”. Joseph stated that such discrimination must be seen for what it truly is, as there is no scientific basis to justify FINA’s decision. He questioned the yard stick that is being used to make such decisions as the water sport involves a diversity of swimmers. Joseph further elaborated his position that FINA’s decision is discriminatory by reinforcing that there was never anything to determine the fit of swim caps.
He said: “Indeed, there is no scientific basis on which to justify FINA’s action. That FINA dares to state that the ‘soul cap does not follow the natural form of the head’ must be seen for the discrimination that it really is. It exposes the organization’s seemingly inherent bias. There was never any determination that swim caps should follow ‘the natural form of the head’. Indeed, we must ask of FINA, whose head are they using as their yardstick in this matter?”
Joseph called for an urgent analysis of the situation and urged FINA to reject such decision. Joseph hopes that such decision will not be implemented in this year’s Olympics and in the sport, under no circumstance. He commented that such a decision can infringe on the rights of athletes of particular ethnic grouping
“We are aware that sport, as an institution in society, reflects the beliefs and values of society. In today’s world, we continue to see signs of a resurgence of systematic racism evidenced in newer yet sinister forms. Our analysis suggests very strongly that the decision of FINA to ban ‘soul caps’ falls within the growing tendency to infringe on the rights of a particular ethnic grouping which has been using it for their unique circumstances.”