In response to news that the international swimming federation (FINA) has banned Soul Cap – a swimming cap specifically designed to accommodate natural black hair that is ‘thick, curly and voluminous’ – from the Olympics, Assemblywoman Angela McKnight (D-Hudson) issued the following statement:
“The federation’s decision to ban Soul Cap from the Olympics because the caps do not ‘fit the natural form of the head’ is both ignorant and senseless. Since standard swim caps often do not fit natural hair properly, allowing Soul Caps to be worn would have leveled the playing field by providing black athletes with a cap that accommodates their hair.
“This shameful ruling places black swimmers at a disadvantage, thereby denying all swimmers a fair and equitable competition. Qualified black swimmers will now have to choose between using ill-fitting equipment, altering their physical appearance to compete, or dropping out of the competition altogether. All of these options are demoralizing for black athletes, who already face microaggressions and outright racism in their personal and professional lives.
“New Jersey is no stranger to race-related hair discrimination, which is exactly why I sponsored a bill that was signed into law a few years ago to prevent this sort of unjust and needless discrimination in our state. I urge the international swimming federation to rescind this ban and facilitate true inclusivity at the Olympics by allowing black swimmers from around the world to use these swim caps.”