After criticism1 of the International Basketball Federation’s (FIBA’s) decisions2 to require three Indian Sikh players to remove their turbans before being allowed to play in two international tournaments, the governing body was left with a decision to make about its “no-headgear” rule, which states:
“Players shall not wear equipment (objects) that may cause injury to other players.
The following are not permitted:... Headgear, hair accessories and jewellery.”
“Headbands, maximum five (5) cm in width, made of non-abrasive, unicolour cloth, pliable plastic or rubber” (Article 4.4.2 of the FIBA Rules)3
FIBA planned to discuss the rule during their Central Board meeting in Spain on August 27 - 29, but postponed their decision requesting further guidance on the issue from their technical and legal commissioners.4
Finally, on September 16, FIBA’s Central Board decided to relax the "no-headgear" rule for a two-year “testing phase”5. During this time, National Federations can apply to FIBA with a detailed request for exceptions to the rule “without incurring any sanctions for violation of FIBA's Official Basketball Rules,” and must follow-up with FIBA twice a year through reports to “monitor the use of such exceptions”6
FIBA stated that:
“The two years will serve as a test period. FIBA, through its competent bodies, will monitor these requests and their implementation from both the technical and sport development perspectives (for example in terms of manufacturing specificities, safety of athletes, look on the field of play and positive development of participation numbers in basketball within the demanding countries).”7
Additionally under the test period, FIBA has allowed all participants in its national and international 3x3 basketball8 tournaments to play with headgear, although participants are still required to send a detail request for approval to FIBA.9
In the summer of 2015, the results of the tests will be evaluated on the “lowest official international level”.10 A full review will then be conducted in 2016, after the 2016 Rio Olympics11, for FIBA to consider whether to make any permanent changes.12
Although neither the practical details of how FIBA’s internal decision making process will work, nor the evidence, principles, rules or parameters they will rely on, are clear, it is hoped that this move will play out positively for the athletes.