Soul Cap’s Ban from International Competitive Swimming Under Review by FINA

·2 min read

Olympic season is fast approaching and the debate around diversity in elite sport is louder than ever. As first reported by Metro UK, at the end of June, the International Swimming Federation (FINA) banned the use of swim caps from Soul Cap, designed for natural Black hair, in international competitions, like the upcoming Tokyo Olympics. After receiving backlash, the decision is now being reconsidered. “FINA is currently reviewing the situation with regards to ‘Soul Cap’ and similar products, understanding the importance of inclusivity and representation,” FINA announced in a media statement issued on July 2. 

Soul Cap is a Black-owned, British swim brand that caters to diverse hairstyles like locs, braids, and afros. On July 1, the brand took to Instagram to call out FINA for denying their swim caps the certification needed for athletes to wear them in international competitive swimming. “FINA’s recent dismissal could discourage many younger athletes from pursuing the sport as they progress through local, county, and national competitive swimming,” wrote Soul Cap on Instagram. “We hoped to further our work for diversity in swimming by having our swim caps certified for competition, so swimmers at any level don’t have to choose between the sport they love and their hair.”

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Although there are no rules against wearing Soul Cap for “recreational and teaching purposes,” as the new media statement reads, FINA initially appeared to ban the swim caps due to their fit. According to The Guardian, FINA stated that Soul Cap does not fit “the natural form of the head” and to their "best knowledge, athletes competing at the International events never used, neither require to use, caps of such size and configuration.” 

Black Olympians, like 24-year-old Alice Dearing, have been vocal about their disapproval. The British swimmer etched her name in history in 2021 by becoming the first Black woman to represent Great Britain in swimming at the Olympics. Alice first partnered with Soul Cap in 2020 and worries that FINA’s ruling could prevent young Black hopefuls from pursuing a sport that they’re already underrepresented in. “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'm really hopeful that with it being under review that some agreement will come about,” she told Sky Sports News on July 5. 

FINA reviewing what their ban means for diversity in competitive swimming can only be a positive step in making the sport more accessible to everyone.

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Originally Appeared on Teen Vogue