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Swimming Federation Gets Smackdown For Refusing To Allow Swim Caps Specialized For Afro Hair

Black hair needs to be fought for and protected.

The International Swimming Federation (FINA) is learning this lesson first hand. After revealing its decision to prevent Black swimmers from using caps designed to protect their natural hair, the organization announced that it’s backpedaling. Or instead “reviewing” its initial decision.

Black swimmers looking to take part in the Tokyo Olympics this summer hit a roadblock this week after it was revealed they might not be able to protect themselves like other swimmers adequately. 

Soul Cap is a UK-based banned working to protect Black hair and recently in the spotlight after FINA refused to approve their products for the caps designed for swimmers who have “thick, curly, and voluminous hair” taking part in their competitions. 

According to BBC, Soul Cap explains that FINA had rejected the caps because they are “unsuitable because they don’t follow ‘the natural form of the head.” The caps are meant to protect thick and curly hairstyles, including curls, braids, extensions, dreadlocks, weaves, and afros. The decision ultimately caused concern and backlash amongst Black swimmers who see the impact the decision could have on young swimmers who might feel dissuaded from participating in aquatic sports due to its effects on their hair’s health.

“Certain things will make our hair break off, and other things make our hair protected,” one user noted on Twitter in response to the backlash. “Our hair is strong, but sensitive which is why you see people with bonnets and protective hairstyles.”

In response to the backlash, FINA made a statement that they understood “the importance of inclusivity and representation.”

In a statement posted to its official site, the statement read, “FINA appreciates the efforts of ‘Soul Cap’ and other suppliers to ensure everyone has the chance to enjoy the water. FINA will also speak with the manufacturer of the ‘Soul Cap’ about utilizing their products through the FINA Development Centres. FINA expects to make its consideration of ‘Soul Cap’ and similar products part of wider initiatives aimed at ensuring there are no barriers to participation in swimming, which is both a sport and a vital life skill.”

The Black Swimming Association (BSA) responded to the statement stating, “FINA expects to make its consideration of ‘Soul Cap’ and similar products part of wider initiatives aimed at ensuring there are no barriers to participation in swimming, which is both a sport and a vital life skill.”

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