What’s the Real Threat?

The highlight for India’s citizens and fans at the Asia Cup this year has been India’s leading scorers, Amrit Pal Singh and Amjyot Singh, who are both turban-wearing Sikhs. They led their team in a win over China at the Asia Cup, a true upset, as China was ranked 12th in the world. In fact, Amjyot Singh’s exciting alley-oop dunk went viral on YouTube. He has been dubbed the “Indian Kobe”, credited for helping inspire the rapidly growing interest for basketball in a nation of 1.3 billion.

Unfortunately this team of rising stars was very shaken right before the India vs. Japan game in Wuhan, China last Saturday, when despite assurances given to their coach by FIBA, the referees asked Amrit Pal and Amjyot to remove their turbans, saying they were violating Article 4.4.2 of FIBA’s official rules, which states that “Players shall not wear equipment (objects) that may cause injury to other players.”

No pins, no pricks, no spikes, no swords, no chains, no chainsaws, nothing is contained inside the small fabric worn for religious purposes by Sikhs besides long, uncut hair. FIBA’s turban ban is not only implying that a piece of cloth worn for religious significance could somehow become a weapon of harm on a basketball court, it is implying that the Sikh way of life is not deserving of its respect.

Sports are a way for people of different countries and religions to come together and work towards a common goal, but FIBA’s discriminatory and irrational ban against Sikh players wearing turbans at the Asia Cup is working to do the exact opposite. Major sports leagues such as FIFA, the NCAA, and the NBL have cleared turbans for play and it’s time for FIBA to step into the 21st century and do the same.

Since the turban ban was imposed last Saturday before India’s game against Japan, organizations as well as people on social media have created the #LetSikhsPlay movement. Advocacy groups such as SALDEF (Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund) and The Sikh Coalition are looking to overturn the ruling in time for India’s July 18th game against Jordan. Critical pieces by writers at BuzzFeed, Hoopistani and Newsweek along with thousands of supporters online have voiced their displeasure with the ridiculous rule.

Not only is basketball going to stay in India, it’s going to grow. FIBA desperately needs to acknowledge that turbans have been worn by players at all levels of basketball across the world, and that they have caused a grand total of 0 injuries.

Darsh Preet Singh wore a turban and was captain of his college basketball team at Trinity University. His turban caused 0 injuries.

Dipanjot Singh started on a Division 1 basketball program in Illinois and now plays professionally in Canada. His turban caused 0 injuries.

Amjyot and Amrit Pal Singh play professionally in India and are considered to be a national treasure. Their turbans have caused 0 injuries.

It’s clear to see that FIBA’s backwards ruling is far more dangerous for the game of basketball than the nonexistent threat posed by a religious practice and way of life.

A pre-law student, sports nut, and human rights activist based in New Jersey, guest blogger Balpreet Singh is a student at Rutgers University. He loves running and basketball but, most importantly, he loves his pen.

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