Swimming caps that were designed for natural Black hair reportedly won't be allowed at the Olympics after the International Swimming Federation said they don't fit "the natural form of the head."
Soul Cap, a Black-owned brand, designed the swimming cap, and its founders Michael Chapman and Toks Ahmed said they did so "so swimmers at any level don't have to choose between the sport they love and their hair," per Allure. But the International Swimming Federation has rejected the caps, saying they don't fit "the natural form of the head" and that to its "best knowledge the athletes competing at the international events never used, neither require … caps of such size and configuration," The Guardian reports.
Black Swimming Association founding member Danielle Obe criticized the decision in an interview with The Guardian, arguing it "confirms a lack of diversity" in the sport.
"We need the space and the volume which products like the Soul Caps allow for," Obe told The Guardian. "Inclusivity is realizing that no one head shape is 'normal.' ... If the [official swimming bodies] are talking about representation, they need to speak to the communities to find out what the barriers are that are preventing us from engaging. Hair is a significant issue for our community."
The report comes amid news that sprinter Sha'Carri Richardson has been suspended for 30 days and may miss the Olympics for her use of marijuana, prompting backlash and a wave of support for her. The International Swimming Federation's reported decision also drew criticism Friday, with The Washington Post columnist Karen Attiah writing, "When I was a kid, I wanted desperately to be a competitive swimmer. I never got to do that. One of the main reasons my mom objected was not knowing about/having options to [protect] my hair." She also slammed the decision as "utter bulls--t."