FINA Releases Statement Saying it is ‘Reviewing’ Competition Ban on Soul Cap

https://soulcap.com/shop/extra-large-swimming-cap SOUL CAP XL Credit: Soul Cap
Photo Courtesy: Soul Cap

FINA on Friday released a media statement saying that it is reviewing its ban on the Soul Cap for competition in response to a global uproar.

FINA had banned the Soul Cap, which the founders describe as “an extra-large swimming cap created for swimmers who struggle with their hair” and is seen as a tool for inclusion for a historically excluded group, in competition. FINA didn’t walk back the ban, though it did encourage its use in practice and training. FINA had previously expressed concern that the extended shape could disrupt water flow around the head and thus confer an aquadynamic advantage.

From FINA:

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. 

There is no restriction on “Soul Cap” swim caps for recreational and teaching purposes. FINA appreciates the efforts of “Soul Cap” and other suppliers to ensure everyone has the chance to enjoy the water. FINA will also speak with the manufacturer of the “Soul Cap” about utilising their products through the FINA Development Centres.

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.

FINA’s decision has sparked outrage in many corners. Co-founder Toks Ahmed sees the FINA prohibition as another obstacle for swimmers of color to contend with as they pursue the sport.

“We feel the rejection comes from lack of thought, without full consideration for diversity and the different requirements non-white athletes may have,” Toks said. “We feel there’s always room for improvement, but there’s only so much grassroots and small brands can do – we need the top to be receptive to positive change.”

For more information on the Soul Cap’s story, visit their website.

41 comments

  1. avatar
    Parker Brown-Nesbit

    This is an absolutely stupid and racist decision. Do they not understand that Black hair does not fit under a swim cap made for White people?

    • avatar
      Shannon

      Literally no they do not. Caps stretch like a mofo so they have no concept of why natural or otherwise afro-centric hair might not fit in them.

      • avatar
        Mike

        I think you may have failed to understand the core substance of the matter.
        They don’t do as you claim. I’ve spent five years watching my daughter struggle with caps. Enough said.

    • avatar
      Gerry Yak

      What you’re missing is that in competition the swimmers are monitored to make certain that the stroke is performed correctly – like feet not breaking the surface or only 1 dolphin kicking coming out of a turn – and not allowing water to wash over the head !! These caps will increase the height at the top of the head by stuffing it with hair that’s simply CHEATING –
      Also you cannot perform a competitive flip turn with that cap on and a head full of hair extensions. It isn’t racist – it’s call international standards for all races to compete fairly. Caps are fine for recreational swimming but not competition.

      • avatar
        Judy arnold

        Exactly, the soul caps would create an unequal playing field. Simple terms , cheating. Same concept as compression suits , double caps , etc.
        bigger air flow over the head, more oxygen, better performance.
        You would need to be a swimming referee to understand, this natural occurrence , at the turns.
        better to cut their hair, if a swimmer is at this level of
        competition.
        Has nothing to do with discrimination, all long hair swimmers have problems stretching the caps to fit.

      • avatar
        Roy J

        Agreed. It’s cheating because it doesn’t fit the rules made by white people. Good job, Karen.

      • avatar
        Felicity

        A head full of extension? do you think that black women all wear hair extensions? Are you aware that black people’s hair is different and does not grow the same way a white women’s does? This is not about hair extensions but because of black people’s natural hair that does not fit in the standard swim caps that are originally designed for white people

      • avatar
        Chris Kaufmann

        “A head full of extensions”?? You are clearly not a good arbiter of what’s racist.

      • avatar
        CL

        So you’re saying the reason these athletes have made it to this level, is because they had an advantage given by their caps? You’re also stating that these athletes can’t do the appropriate maneuvers necessary with those caps, even though they’ve managed to make it to the pinnacle of competition? Apparently you’re a swim referee, and all of these athlete’s previous competitions didn’t have one present. Your comments show an utter lack of understanding of the differences in hair textures that play the key part in the issue with standard caps. In general, natural straight hair is thin, grows fast, but hard to damage, while natural curly and kinky hair, grows slower, has more volume, but both are very damage prone.
        The fact that your solution is that these athletes should have to cut their hair to be able to compete, is beyond asinine, and the epitome of cultural ignorance and self-righteousness on your part. It is apparent that the system that oversees this competition is of the same gradualism way of thinking and approach to modern day competition as you.

      • avatar
        Anonymous

        Who said anything about hair extensions. Black hair is naturally voluminous. And when it gets wet on a daily basis it’s impossible to work with. The regular swim caps that are made for non black people are difficult to use. So if you just put yourself in they’re place for a moment; with thick and voluminous hair. Not about hair extensions

      • avatar
        Andrew

        Ignorance at it’s finest…. So when did u become a scientist for Soul Caps… U Haven’t so why u speaking like u did the science yourself and gained the Data u need for the SoulCap… U gotta be a White Person with very thin hair. If u don’t live it don’t speak on it

      • avatar
        HRoth

        Thank you! I have been an official and this is something that people outside the sport may not understand. That and the fact that ALL equipment is highly regulated at this level. There are probably swimmers who have gear that they prefer to use but cannot at the Olympic level because of their strictness. Does that prevent the swimmer from training or competing up to that point? No. Do they have to make a change for a highly scrutinized world event. Yes. This is making a mountain out of a molehill.

      • avatar
        Mark H

        In that case make a new rule. All heads shall be shaved for competition. Fair and equal for all.

      • avatar
        April McClain

        Racist Period. White folks always attempt to cloak racism in “science”.

      • avatar
        Dawna

        Time to change the standards.

    • avatar
      Macx

      Cut it! This is the Olympic, not the park playground! Men shave their head, women cut their hair to make it more hydrodynamic. Black people are becoming impossible to deal with, it is always setting up a narrative that one way or another, everything is a racist choice. People see racism everywhere. This is frustrating.

      • avatar
        Dazzle

        Your ignorance and stupidity is so obvious. Why should only black people cut their hair just because a cap made for white people doesn’t fit them? Why not just allow them use theirs? Like I said earlier Stupid and ignorant.

      • avatar
        Anonymous

        Talk to a black person about it.

      • avatar
        Jeremy Pryce

        “Black people are becoming impossible to deal with…” Just wow…

      • avatar
        Colton

        jesus christ, I’m guessing you’re white? Well I am too. So neither of us will ever understand the struggle of having hair like black people’s. So shut up, and let black people live comfortably. You’re the one that’s impossible to deal with. All they are asking for is to be treated with respect. Yet 99% of white people fail to do that, as you are demonstrating with your ignorant comment. Racism IS everywhere. You’re just blinded by your own racism.

    • avatar
      Xavier

      I’m seeing everyone complain except black female swimmers. Not to mention the creators of Soul Caps are Men.. Get more athletes to speak up because right now it’s the Olympics. About competition it’s been around for YEARS they are not about to make any last minute changes like this. Try again next Olympics

      • avatar
        David

        The whole thing is ridiculous. Yes inclusion a real problem, but this made up cap thing just isn’t. Love to see more diverse swimmers but the practice of big caps for beginners and fast caps to go faster just isn’t going to change no matter who does it.

  2. avatar
    Michael

    Such a disappointing decision to start with. It suggests that the FINA swimwear approval committee is overdue for a total overhaul.

    Don’t be surprised if FINA reverses the decision but makes sure manufacture/supply will not remain in the hands of Soul Cap. Watch this space.

  3. avatar
    Anna

    Even without extensions, I can’t fit my hair into most swim caps because they are made for people with thin, straight hair. Saying that people should cut their hair is not an effective solution. I would have to shave my head in order to uncomfortably wear one of these “conventional” swim caps. And most female swimmers are able to fit their hair into these “conventional” swim caps without cutting it because the caps are made for their thin, straight hair. So only black people or people with thick hair would be forced to cut their hair to compete.

    If that’s the case, then everyone should be required to shave their heads/cut their hair in order to compete, not just those with thick hair.

    The way the ban is right now, it is discrimination. It effectively makes it difficult for people with afro-textured/thick hair to compete almost to the point of exclusion. I can’t control the way my hair grows. It’s not my fault that genetically I have thick hair. Everyone who competes, wears a swim cap. Why should I be exluded from wearing a swim cap that fits my hair and and my head?

    Furthermore, FINA could have saved themselves a lot of trouble if their reason for banning the soul cap wasn’t steeped in discrimination against non-white people.

    They literally said “to their best knowledge, the athletes competing at the International events never used, neither require to use, caps of such size and configuration.” They also described the soul cap swim caps as unsuitable due to them not “following the natural form of the head.”

    Their knowledge is based on eurocentric head shapes and hair types, which means they know nothing about the different head shapes/hair types in the rest of the world, and their knowledge is excluding everyone who doesn’t fit this narrative. FINA is saying that eurocentric head shapes and eurocentric hair are “normal”, and that if you don’t fit those head shapes and hair types then you are not “normal”, which is discrimination.

    Banning swim caps that allow for a more inclusive environment is not acceptable.

    If they were really worried about cheating, then they would have figured out something instead of rejecting soul cap’s application a year ago and not making any effort to make sure that all people have the opportunity to complete.

    If the soul cap really did cause cheating there should have been some kind of evidence through rigourous testing to back that claim up.

    But no, banning the swim cap was much easier than them putting in the effort to make sure the olympics are an inclusive event for all qualified people.

    • avatar
      Banana

      If the soul cap allowed for better performance, white people would have co-opted them and they’d be all the rage.

      • avatar
        Al

        Nailed it. ?

      • avatar
        David

        White people have been using these caps since the 70s. Only the ones that wanted to go fast cut their hair and put on the slick caps. That’s why it never came up before. I don’t know why Ms Dearing didn’t start in one and try to make it to the Olympics that way, maybe she just wanted to go fast? I’ve never met anyone that wanted to grow their hair out and go slower just for the Olympics, but you know it should be allowed. I think maybe we don’t saddle MS Dearing and all the other girls with it though. Let’s let that play out after this Olympics. I do hope it gets all the kids to the pool, it’s really good for them and you don’t have to win the Olympics to get those life lessons.

      • avatar
        Stella

        Truth

    • avatar
      martin

      well, being a global elite has sacrifices. olympic swimmers dont have any hair on their arms or legs. it slows them so they must shave it. you can keep your hair, or be an elite that goes to the olympics. your choice. a white hippie with dumb dreads has the same issue. just have less hair or maybe braid it small like ufc fighters do. you cant swim huge races with a big ole head, no matter who you are. either its slow, and stupid, or fast, and illegal.

  4. avatar
    Rushky

    Seriously, if we got to a point where we are talking about inclusivity for trans athletes in all kind of competition, we should most definitely have a way to include athletes of all colors and hair types into competition.

    As for the ridiculous tumble turn argument, executing a tumble turn isn’t rocket science. Having a head covering, or not, never stopped anyone from doing one. Let’s cut the BS. That’s not even an argument.

    Lastly, I doubt that having a larger, less aerodynamic soulcap reduces drag. If anything it increases it. Have you looked at the size of these things?

  5. avatar
    Anne

    Fina’s decision on this is disgusting and needs to be reversed without delay. No evidence for the perceived advantage has been provided and as a previous comment has suggested the reverse is more likely due to the slightly less aerodynamic shape.

  6. avatar
    Doconc

    They look ridiculous

    Regular caps aren’t designed for “white people”

    They are for swimmers

    Stop the constant racial gaslighting

    • avatar
      Lex

      They look like a cap with a lot of hair in them

      Regular caps are for white people, practically everything is made for white people, and especially those

      When Swimming caps first came out, Black people weren’t even allowed in the pool!

      Your comment is the EPITOME of racial gaslighting

  7. avatar
    Randy Smith

    Fina flinches at any change because analysis represents work. Perhaps a shark fin cap for all.

  8. avatar
    rich

    Wearing here own, signature TYR cap and swim wear which she endorses doesn’t seem to have hampered Simone Manuel. I can’t image her trying to compete in that bulbous Soul Cap.

  9. avatar
    Anthony

    Its amazing how far this has reached, over a cap.
    Covid killing thousands and black and white behaving in such a manner over a head gear. I am not a swim referee, but i can safely say, i have seen swimmers both colors struggle to put on a swim cap.
    Question: Why FINA waited at the last minute to decide. Let the games begin, FINA relax now.

  10. avatar
    Mike

    Essentially this is an excellent marketing ploy from Soul Cap.
    You submit a request to FINA with only a couple of weeks to the Olympics. No current athletes are wearing their gear, so why the rush?

    By rushing it, I’m sure they knew there was every opportunity that FINA might reject it in all their haste. Now there are a lot of articles about it in the press, outrage on twitter and the comments sections everywhere. Well done to the marketeer from Soul Cap.

  11. avatar
    Megan

    Booo FINA
    Unless there is a competitive advantage (which is highly unlikely) this should have been an easy approval

    • avatar
      Anonymous

      There is a competitive advantage also it looks ridiculous

  12. avatar
    John

    The FINA ruling only applies to competition. I think everyone has blown this out of proportion with the belief that black people cannot wear the soul cap in a swimming pool. Simply not the case. They can even wear them in practice just not in competition. The rules are made so that there is no unfair advantage given based upon equipment. Same rule that that disallowed full bodysuits about 10 years ago. You could see this getting out of hand by shaping the cap to a streamlined shape that would aid performance. If you want to be a competitive swimmer you will have to sometimes make sacrifices like cut your hair shorter. White swimmers have been doing this for a long time or they deal with having to put their hair in an approved cap. It is not racist at all it is an attempt to keep the sport fair.

  13. avatar
    Anthony

    Inclusion is of highest priority. That a soul cap would provide some kind of advantage or ability to cheat is absurd.

    As a trainer, I must counsel my swimmers that a shave of their body hair prior to a focus competition is traditional and helpful way to better “feel” the water. Likewise a tight-fitting bathing cap also makes the swimmer feel that they move better through the water.

    Suggesting it is a good competitive thing for a swimmer to have very long hair (white, or black or other) is not in the best interest of swimming fast. It is better to have short hair than long hair when it comes to competitive swimming.

    Anyone who would take another argument is a fool, or pushing political agendas that have nothing to do with swimming fast.

    The soul cap should be approved by FINA. It should be worn in training or learning situations where it can provide relief swimmers of any color who struggle with long or heavy unmanagable hair.

    The same holds true for competition. If a swimmer chooses to have long, difficult to manage hair, I have no problem with them putting it under soul cap should the individual choose to.

    My experience as a competitive swimming trainer is that this will be detrimental to them swimming faster, which is, or should be the who le point of their competitive swimming pursuits.

    This is my humble opinion.

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