FINA to Review Olympic Ban of Inclusive Swimming Caps Designed for Natural Black Hair

Rob Goldberg@@TheRobGoldbergFeatured Columnist IVJuly 7, 2021

UNIVERSAL CITY, CALIFORNIA - JULY 03: NBC Olympics launches "Rings Across America" Tour life-size set of iconic Olympic Rings at Universal Studios Hollywood on July 03, 2021 in Universal City, California. (Photo by Amy Sussman/Getty Images)
Amy Sussman/Getty Images

The International Swimming Federation, also known as FINA, said it will review its initial decision to ban Soul Cap swimming caps from competitions after recent backlash. 

"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," the organization wrote in a statement (h/t Sharon Pruitt-Young of NPR). "FINA is currently reviewing the situation with regards to 'Soul Cap' and similar products, understanding the importance of inclusivity and representation."

Soul Cap, a Black-owned business, designs swimming caps for natural Black hair and other voluminous hair types and styles.

The company applied for certification to be used in competitive swimming ahead of the Summer Olympics in Tokyo, but they announced on Instagram the application was denied. 

"We hoped to further our work for diversity in swimming by having our swim caps certified for competition, so swimmers at any level don't have to choose between the sport they love and their hair," the Black-owned company said in the statement.

FINA's ruling said the caps don't follow "the natural form of the head" and to its "best knowledge" no athletes "require … caps of such size and configuration," per Priya Elan of The Guardian.

The governing body clarified in its latest statement that there are no restrictions on the swim cap for "recreational and teaching purposes."

There is limited time for FINA to reverse its decision before the July 23 start of the Olympics.