FINA, the international governing body for water sport competitions, said it will reconsider its decision to not allow swim caps designed for Black athletes with natural hair in competition.
The announcement comes after FINA received backlash for its initial decision to not approve the design from Soul Cap, a British company, ahead of the Tokyo Olympics.
"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 group said in a statement posted on its website Wednesday.
FINA also praised Soul Cap and other suppliers that create products that "ensure everyone has a chance to enjoy the water" and said it would contact the company about using its products at FINA Development Centers.
It's unclear when a decision could come and whether the ban could be reversed in time for the Olympics.
"FINA expects to make its consideration of 'Soul Cap' and similar products part of wider initiatives aimed at ensuring there are no barriers to participation in swimming, which is both a sport and a vital life skill," the group said.
As the international governing body for water sports competitions, FINA requires apparel companies to submit new designs and materials for approval before they are cleared to be used in competition. Soul Cap's initial application was denied.
Soul Cap sells four sizes of swim caps geared toward athletes with long hair, dreadlocks and Afro hairstyles. The largest size, XXL, retails online for $26.49.
The ban drew swift backlash around the world. It also comes as a Soul Cap ambassador made history as the first Black woman to represent Team Great Britain in swimming at the Olympics.
"It’s a positive step that FINA is going to reconsider our swim cap as part of their ‘wider initiatives aimed at ensuring there are no barriers to participation in swimming.' Our hope is that these wider initiatives mentioned will engage with and support grassroots organizations that advocate for and deliver swim education to underrepresented communities," a Soul Cap spokesperson told TMRW in an email. "We would not have got to this point without voices like these in the community supporting us, we hope it’s recognized that they’re integral in creating effective and lasting change."
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