Bilqis Abdul Qaadir
By Mark Chiarelli
FIBA, the governing body of international basketball, is closing in on a rule change that would allow athletes to wear headgear in international competitions, according to a report from the Association Press.
Currently, the league has a ban on athletes wearing headgear in competition, and the rule change would allow competitors to wear hijabs, turbans and yarmulkes while playing. It's a rule change that Springfield native Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir, the leading scorer in Massachusetts high school basketball history and a college standout, has advocated for in recent years.
FIBA hopes to approve the rule change in May, according to the report.
FIBA's ban on headgear has stood for 20 years and restricted Abdul-Qaadir, who is Muslim and became the first Division I college basketball player to compete wearing a hijab, from pursuing a professional career overseas. She played three years of college basketball at the University of Memphis before graduating following the 2012-13 season and playing one season with Indiana State University as a graduate student.
Abdul-Qaadir's been a vocal opponent of the headgear ban over the last two years. She recently released a short film, see below, "FIBA Allow Hijab," which focused on the end of her collegiate playing career and advocacy work to push FIBA toward making a change.
In the film, Abqul-Qaadir acknowledges her professional career is in question because of the ban.
Abdul-Qaadir was a star at New Leadership High School in Springfield. She was named the Massachusetts Gatorade Player of the Year in 2009 and surpassed Rebecca Lobo's scoring record as a senior.
FIBA's longstanding reasoning for banning headwear was due to safety, not religion. Groups have criticized FIBA, interpreting the rule as a ban on participation of players of a certain faith, per the report.
"I am a Muslim, and I think anybody should have the right (to wear headgear)," said Nuggets forward Kenneth Faried. "Jewish -- hey, if you're Gothic, whatever your religion is -- Muslim, Christian, Catholic, it doesn't matter. You should be able to support your religion and wear whatever is part of your religion."
United States women's basketball coach and UConn head coach Geno Auriemma will be on a committee that oversees the proposed change of the rule.
"I know that sports is the one great place where race, religion and ethnicity and politics shouldn't enter into it, but unfortunately it always does encroach upon it," Auriemma told The Associated Press. "Anything that encourages participation. Let's get as many people playing as possible. Make the game as inclusive as possible within reason. You don't want to put people in a position on the floor where it could cause a problem for the player or the opponent. I'm sure if enough intelligent people get together, they can come up with an intelligent solution to this."