Swimming caps designed for natural Black hair will not be permitted at the upcoming Tokyo Olympic Games.
Soul Cap, a Black-owned British company, created their extra-large swim caps to accommodate for diverse hair types, specifically for Black women with thick, curly hair.
According to Soul Cap, following the group’s rejection of the company’s application for their products to be officially recognized at a competitive level, the International Swimming Federation (FINA) said that the caps do not follow “the natural form of the head.” The company told the BBC that FINA claimed that to their “best knowledge the athletes competing at the international events never used, neither require… caps of such size and configuration.” FINA did not confirm or deny the purported quotes to the BBC.
“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,” Soul Cap co-founders Toks Ahmed and Michael Chapman wrote in a statement shared on Instagram on Wednesday.
The co-founders went on to emphasize the potential aftermath of FINA’s recent ban of Soul Cap products in competition, stating that it “could discourage many younger athletes from pursuing the sport as they progress through local, county and national competitive swimming.”
FINA’s decision affects swimmers not only at the Olympics, but down to the local level as well, banning the caps in local, regional and state competitions.
Since its inception in 2017, Soul Cap has provided 30,000 caps to swimmers around the world, according to the company website. The brand recently partnered with Alice Dearing, who qualified last week as the first Black female swimmer to represent Great Britain at the Olympics.
In response to the backlash, FINA released a statement that it is reviewing Soul Cap for competition use, claiming that it “acknowledges the comments and reactions.”
“FINA is committed to ensuring that all aquatics athletes have access to appropriate swimwear for competition where this swimwear does not confer a competitive advantage. FINA is currently reviewing the situation with regards to ‘Soul Cap’ and similar products, understanding the importance of inclusivity and representation,” the statement continued.