Headgear, including hijab and yarmulkes will be allowed in professional basketball following the approval of a proposal by the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) that overturns a ban on such head coverings.
The organisation’s central board approved the proposal on Wednesday and the new rule was formally ratified during FIBA’s midterm congress on Thursday.
“It came up in our board meeting and everyone supported making the change,” USA Basketball CEO Jim Tooley told AP news agency prior to Thursday’s FIBA meeting.
The body started the revision process of the rule in September 2014 and in February of this year, it tasked its playing rules committee to create a proposal that outlines how headgear could safely be worn in competition.
“The new rule comes as a result of the fact that traditional dress codes in some countries – which called for the head and/or entire body being covered – were incompatible with FIBA’s previous headgear rule,” FIBA said in a statement.
It was feared that head coverings could fall off during the game and potentially pose a risk to players.
Under the new rule, headgear must meet certain criteria to be allowed in competition, including that it “does not cover any part of the face entirely or partially”, it is “not dangerous to the player wearing it or other players” and it does not have “parts extruding from its surface”.
The rule change comes after a successful social media campaign that began more than two years ago aimed at overturning the ban.
A number of change.org petitions, calling for a change to the rule have garnered more than 137,000 signatures.
Kike Salihu Rafiu, who played basketball in college, but was forced to give up the sport on a professional level because she wears hijab, told reporters she believed social media helped prompt the reversal of the ban.
“Because we couldn’t physically meet in person because we’re all diverse … I think using that platform did open the eyes of FIBA in realising that there’s a huge community that wants to participate in the sport and this rule is actually stopping us from participating professionally and representing our country,” Rafiu said.
The hijab is a headscarf worn by many Muslim women who feel it is part of their religion.
The new rule is set to come into effect in October.
It follows the lead of other sports that have, in recent years, allowed religious head coverings and other wear in sport, including football and weightlifting.
Last week, US boxing officials announced religious wear would be exempt from their rules on headgear.
Rafiu said she is excited about FIBA’s rule change.
“I’m really excited. Not just for us, but also for the younger generation,” she said.
“Now they don’t have to worry about any type of ban, all they have to worry about is just playing basketball.”