You may have heard the story of former Memphis and Indiana State women's basketball player Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir: she was the first Muslim woman to play NCAA Division I basketball wearing hijab (after breaking Rebecca Lobo's high school scoring record in Massachusetts).
Yet since graduating from Indiana State, she has led the fight against FIBA's rules restricting headwear in international competition.
As with most women's basketball players, the Massachusetts native aspired to pursue a professional career internationally. However, FIBA's ban on wearing headgear (that also affects Jewish and Sikh men) has kept her from playing overseas.
After quite a bit of media attention and international pressure surrounding Abdul-Qaadir's story and others, FIBA relented just this month by announcing a two-year "testing phase" in which, "...national federations must petition FIBA to allow players to wear previously-prohibited headgear." Setting aside the matter of questioning what needs to be "tested" in this situation -- FIBA claims the rule is in place due to a safety issue -- Abdul-Qaadir questioned whether the decision would even be effective in a Muslim Matters article by Amaar Abdul-Nasir on September 16:
"I don't know how effective (Tuesday's) decision was. I think the ban needs to be obliterated," said Abdul-Qaadir, who has returned to Indiana State to finish her master's degree and serve as the Director of Operations for the women's basketball program. "I don't get what they're trying to prove.
"At first I was excited when I saw the headline, but after I read the whole thing, I think people are being misled," Abdul-Qaadir added. "It's not over. I've been getting all of these congratulatory emails and texts, but as far as I know I still really can't do anything. I still don't think I can sign with a pro team."
That entire article is worth a read, but there was a new development in this ongoing story just yesterday when a team directly protested FIBA's policy in the course of competition.
Qatar pulls out of Asian Games
- The BBC reported that the Qatari women's basketball team has officially pulled out of the Asian Games after initially forfeiting yesterday's game against Mongolia due to being asked to remove their head scarves: "World basketball regulations list headgear and hair accessories among the items that are prohibited on court. With no sign that the rule would be relaxed before their next match against Nepal, the team decided to pull out." Read more >>>
- Agence France-Presse of Rappler reports that there was in fact no "confusion" about FIBA's rule as reported elsewhere (likely due to the proximity of yesterday's game to FIBA's newly implemented "testing phase") -- the Qatari women took a deliberate stand against what they believe to be an unjust rule: "What happened today is against International Olympic Committee goals which are meant to include countries from different cultures, and also it's against the slogan of the Asian Games in Incheon which is 'Diversity Shines here.'" Al Mana said Qatar knew about the ban in advance, but hoped to persuade FIBA to change its mind. The headwear ban has already been relaxed at national level." Read more >>>
- The Gulf Times posted a more detailed version of the story, which includes the international groups that have taken a stand against the ban: "The Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) issued a strongly-worded statement condemning the FIBA's laws, which have been roundly criticised by sporting and human rights groups...Human rights groups and the United Nations joined forces to put pressure on sporting bodies to lift the bans. Earlier this year, the International Football Association Board (IFAB) unanimously overturned a ban on the garments, allowing soccer players to wear them." Read more >>>
- Peter Rutherford of Reuters reported that basketball is (oddly) the only sport which women were prohibited from wearing hijab at the Asian Games, despite other sports lifting their bans: "They had previously been banned (by the International Football Association Board) due to safety concerns and because they were not recognised in the laws of the game. But FIFA medical reports showed there were no safety concerns. Other sports at the Asian Games allow athletes to wear the hijab...Basketball remains one of the exceptions, though FIBA said earlier this month it had held discussions on the issue and was introducing a two-year 'testing phase' on what players can wear." Read more >>>
- Doug Smith of the Toronto Star reported that Canada, which will be relying heavily on UConn freshman Kia Nurse and UCLA star Nirra Fields, is hoping for a top-eight finish at the World Championships. Read more >>>
- Lori Ewing of the Canadian Press wrote an extended feature on 30-year-old Utah alum and Canadian guard Kim Gaucher, who is looking forward to the Pan American Games and FIBA Americas Olympic qualifying tournaments in Canada next year: "Those home events figured in Gaucher's decision to return to the Canadian squad for another Olympic run. 'Pan Ams in Toronto and to be able to host an Olympic qualifier — they're unreal opportunities,' she said." Read more >>>
- Jeff Mosier of the Dallas Morning News reported that the NCAA is considering Dallas as a possible location for a future NCAA Tournament Final Four. Part of the selection process is demonstrating a commitment to women's sports and Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle was on hand along with Nancy Lieberman -- former coach and current assistant general manager of the D-League's Texas Legends -- to make the case: "'I’m working very diligently moving our sport more in the direction to make the NBA blind to gender for coaches,' Carlisle said. Lieberman confirmed the local commitment to women. She said she could live in any city in the country but had been in Dallas for more than 30 years. 'They are gender-blind,' she said. 'They want the best of the best.'" Acknowledging that gender-blindness isn't exactly an ideal aim, it will be interesting to see how the Dallas organization backs that claim with action. Read more >>>
- Jennifer Smith of Lexington Herald-Leader blogged about the, "...TV blackout on a likely top 10 showdown between Louisville and UK at the Yum Center in early December." That's a shame if it holds -- those games have been decided by a total of 6 points in their last two meetings. Read more >>>
- Kevin Tresolini of The News Journal reports that Elena Delle Donne will spend the 2014-15 WNBA offseason in Delaware after spending last offseason in Chicago. She's hoping that helps her keep up with her treatments better: "Last offseason, I kind of fell off with my treatment in Chicago," she said of the necessary daily attention to Lyme that impacts all aspects of her life. "This year, that's not going to happen." Read more >>>
- The AP reports that new Indiana Fever coach Stephanie White will continue her broadcasting career: "Besides coaching, White still plans to broadcast games in the winter for ESPN and the Big Ten network." Read more >>>
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