For Immediate Release

Primary Press Contact: Jagmeet Singh
Media & Communications Manager, the Sikh Coalition, 919-260-5500

Secondary Press Contact: Mark Reading-Smith
Media & Communications Director, the Sikh Coalition, 202-380-8489

May 4, 2017 (New York, NY) – Today FIBA, the world governing body for basketball, unanimously approved a new rule that will lift its ban on players who wear religious head coverings. The decision, made in Hong Kong on Thursday, is a game-changer for observant Sikh athletes and other religious groups who have been prohibited from basketball competition because of their articles of faith.

“There is zero conflict between my faith and my ability to play basketball,” said Darsh Preet Singh, the first turbaned Sikh basketball player in the NCAA. “I am thrilled about FIBA’s decision, which will allow athletes across the world to pursue their dreams without compromising their faith.”

For years, the Sikh Coalition has been working with lawmakers and other civil rights organizations to demand that FIBA lift its ban on religious headwear. With increased international pressure and attention, FIBA announced in February 2017 that it would reconsider its position. The update will not officially go into effect until October 2017.

“FIBA is sending a very clear message to the rest of the world that diversity and tolerance matter in sport,” said Sikh Coalition Senior Religion Fellow Simran Jeet Singh. “If implemented appropriately, ending this discriminatory policy opens the door for millions of young people to practice their faith and pursue their dreams. Nobody should ever be forced to choose between their sport and their faith.”

The new policy lifts restrictions on Jews, Muslims, Sikhs and other religious groups.

"The decision from the International Basketball Federation to allow Sikhs and other players to wear articles of religious faith while competing is welcome news,” said U.S. Reps. Joe Crowley (NY) and Ami Bera (CA) in a joint statement. “It has been a long campaign to make this a reality, and praise should go to FIBA and the Sikh community -- they both helped ensure that Sikhs can compete just like anyone else. Sports can uplift communities and individuals by being a source of pride, collaboration, and friendly competition. This decision will help expand those benefits to those who deserve a fair chance at competition."

The Sikh Coalition, the largest Sikh civil rights organization in the United States, initiated a campaign to revise FIBA’s headwear policies after the basketball organization banned Sikhs from the court in international competition. For more information and for interviews, please contact Mark Reading-Smith or Jagmeet Singh.