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U.S. lawmakers aim to end “discriminatory” policy against Sikh basketball players over turbans

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Darsh Singh
Darsh Singh

Co-captain for Trinity University from 2004 to 2008, Darsh Singh was the first turbaned Indian American to play NCAA basketball. Since the NCAA does not allow players to wear headgear, Singh had to petition to continue to wear his turban, a symbol of Sikh faith, during games. (Courtesy: Lakhpreet Kaur)

WASHINGTON (Diya TV) — A bipartisan group of more than 40 U.S. lawmakers have issued an appeal to the International Basketball Federation to bring an end to what they refer to as an “outdated and discriminatory” policy against Sikh players over turbans.

“Sikhs participate in a wide variety of sports around the globe, and there has never been a single instance of someone being harmed or injured by a turban, or of a turban interfering with the sport,” Congressmen said in a letter to Horacio Muratori, President of the Federation Internationale de Basketball (FIBA) or International Basketball Federation.

Spearheaded by Congressman Joe Crowley, who also serves as the Vice Chair of the Democratic Caucus, and California Congressman Ami Bera, the only Indian-American member of the House of Representatives, the letter sent Tuesday was signed by over 40 lawmakers just ahead of an anticipated decision from the international body.

“Every day that FIBA has delayed this decision is another day that Sikhs can’t play,” said Crowley and Bera in a joint statement.

“This is a policy that can only be described as outdated, discriminatory, and totally inconsistent with the ideals of team sports, and it is long past time it change. That’s why we have continued to push for action, including with this latest letter, and we thank all those who have raised their voices with us. Our message to FIBA is simple: let them play!”

FIBA’s policy first came to light in 2014 after two Sikh basketball players were told by referees that they must remove their turbans if they were to play in FIBA’s Asia Cup.

The players, who have always taken the court with their religious headwear, were told that they were in direct violation of a FIBA rule that states, “players shall not wear equipment (objects) that may cause injury to other players.”

However, no such evidence has come to light suggesting the wearing of a turban serves as a threat to injury. Further, other sports leagues, such as Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), allow athletes wearing turbans to participate, lawmakers argued in their letter.

Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir made history in 2010 when she became the NCAA’s first female Muslim basketball player who wears an Islamic headscarf. Six years earlier in 2004, Darsh Preet Singh became the NCAA’s first Sikh basketball player to wear a turban in collegiate competitions. His jersey now hangs in the Smithsonian Museum.

“Playing professionally has been my goal for as long as I can remember,” Abdul-Qaadir said in her petition on Change.org urging FIBA to change its regulations. Fellow petitioner Indira Kaljo, who played professionally for two years in Europe before she decided to start wearing hijab, told Bustle in August: “We are trying to show the world that regardless of our ethnicity or religious background, we are women that want to be able to make a decision for ourselves.”

In 2014, the U.S. Olympic Committee and the Council on American-Islamic Relations both pressured FIBA on behalf of Abdul-Qaadir and other female Muslim athletes to modify their policy and allow them to compete.That same year, at the request of the Sikh Coalition, members of Congress wrote a letter to FIBA’s president explaining that turbans are an important article of faith for Sikh players, and urged the federation to end its discriminatory policy.

A further display of the movement was put on display on the world’s biggest stage — during the Rio Olympic Games, Team USA Fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad made history in August by becoming the first U.S. Olympian to compete wearing hijab. She ended up with a bronze medal.

Sikh Coalition Senior Religion Fellow, Simran Jeet Singh, responded with great gratitude to their efforts in an email to Diya TV.

“We are grateful to our congressional leaders who have taken a stand against this discriminatory policy and called on FIBA to let people of all backgrounds play, no matter how they look or what they believe,” Singh wrote. “Leaders like Congressman Crowley and Congressman Bera are showing this country — and the world — what it means to be an ally for those who are experiencing injustice. We are deeply thankful for their support and hope others will take notice and be inspired to speak up against FIBA’s discriminatory ban.”

 

Basketball

Bucks bycott Game 5 in wake of Jacob Blake shooting, NBA season now in limbo

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Milwakee Bucks issue a statement

ORLANDO, Florida (Diya TV) — As the video of George Flyod’s killing spread across social media, the Black Lives Matter movement grew stronger & folks took to the streets to protest against police brutality. The NBA’s coronavirus-halted season resumed last month in Orlando. This Sunday, in Kenosha, Wisconsin, a police officer shot Jacob Blake, an unarmed Black man, seven times in the back.

Outraged, the Milwaukee Bucks players, decided to boycott Game 5 of the playoff series against the Orlando Magic. They forfiet the game, but the Magic refused to accept the Bucks’ forfeit and instead, both teams stood united, and the Bucks called Wisconsin’s Attorney General and Lieutenant Governor during “game time”.

The news spread quickly and other teams followed suit, notably the Rockets and Thunder, after Russell Westbrook and Chris Paul discussed the boycott.

Coincidently, four years ago today, former 49er Colin Kaepernick first kneeled during the national anthem. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell finally said that he that he wished they “had listened to Kaepernick earlier.” Kaepernick, who was essentially exiled from the league, has been receiving a lot of praise after today’s boycott.

The players took the “game time” to call the Attorney General Josh Kaul & Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes.

Twittersphere saw a barrage of reactions from players, coaches to former president Barack Obama

The 29-year-old, Jacob Blake was shot repeatedly in the back as he attempted to get into his car, while his three children sat inside. Protests have erupted in Kenosha since the shooting, with two people killed after a teenager opened fire on demonstrators with an assault rifle on Tuesday.

After the historic walkout, a players meeting was organized that continued past midnight in Orlando & sources say there was some frustration in the meeting among the players with the Bucks blindsiding everyone with their walk-out plan. Bucks’ guard, George Hill admitted he first sparked conversation pregame to boycott and his teammates supported.

As the teams voted on the status of the season, the LA Clippers & LA Lakers voted to boycott the NBA season, with LeBron James walking out of the meeting. He was soon followed by all the players from the LA teams.

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Basketball

India, Pakistan spar over women’s rights in Kashmir

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India

NEW YORK (Diya TV)  — At the United Nations, both India and Pakistan’s representatives took shots at their counterpart over women’s rights. Islamabad’s outgoing envoy to the UN, Maleeha Lodhi, said the women in Jammu and Kashmir were suffering due to the communication blackout in the state. India’s First Secretary to the UN Paulomi Tripathi said, without naming Pakistan, these “baseless statements” were ironic given the amount of honor killings that take place there annually.

Rajeev Majumdar is the new president of the Washington State Bar Association, becoming the first state bar president of South Asian descent in the United States.

For the first time, India entered the ranks of the top ten countries sending visitors to the United States, with tourists from India spending nearly $16 billion in the U.S. in 2018 alone.

And while the Kings and Pacers played two entertaining games in Mumbai, their legacy will include supporting five under-resourced schools in and around the region, outfitting them with Smart Classrooms, STEM training and new basketball courts.

Ravi Kapur contributed to this report.

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Basketball

Gandhi 150th birth anniversary noted around the world

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Birth Anniversary

NEW DELHI (Diya TV) —  Celebrations for Mahatma Gandhi’s 150th birth anniversary have been ongoing for the past year, but culminated with a ceremony in New Delhi featuring Prime Minister Modi and another in Washington at the Library of Congress. And France’s government worked with the Indian Embassy there to issue a stamp in honor of his birth anniversary.

US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and India’s Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal are meeting this week to continue the US-India discussion on trade and investment.

Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb came to New Delhi to strengthen ties between the Hoosier State and India. Infosys has already made a large commitment there. Holcomb is part of a large delegation of Americans now heading Mumbai to take in the first-ever NBA preseason games in India featuring the Indiana Pacers and the Sacramento Kings.

Bollywood turned Hollywood actor Anupam Kher came to the Bay Area to keynote the Akshay Patra annual fundraising gala that helps feed children in India a hot meal during the school year.

Ravi Kapur contributed to this report.

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