On 2 July, the International Swimming Federation (FINA) organisation took a decision to deny the use of swim caps created especially for Black hair for competition at the Olympics.
While there has been a formal apology issued by FINA and a commitment to review another request for inclusion in the next submission window in September, their original decision highlights the issue of hair discrimination in the sport.
Dove and National Urban League, founding members of The CROWN Coalition, an alliance founded to end race-based hair discrimination, have taken action stemming from this decision as hair is a critically important part of Black heritage, identity, and culture. As such, Black athletes should have the freedom to compete without being forced to forfeit their cultural identity or dignity.
Dove and The CROWN Coalition are committed to driving cultural sensitivity and working to end hair discrimination with the CROWN Act, legislation that ends hair discrimination in the workplace and public schools. The Coalition is now working to influence local, regional, national and international governing bodies to adopt policies to ensure full, equitable participation in the sport of swimming; not excluding the use of swimwear and accessories allowing full access to the sport.
"Dove has always stood for beauty inclusivity and we believe athletes should be able to experience inclusivity in pools as well," said Esi Eggleston Bracey, executive vice president and chief operating officer of North America Beauty and Personal Care at Unilever. “This matter underscores the continued importance of passing CROWN Act legislation.”
Marc Morial, president of the National Urban League and one of the founding members of the CROWN Coalition, added: "FINA's original ruling against a specific swim cap just highlights the issue that Black swimmers have in this sport. This decision by FINA shows a lack of historical and emotional awareness for the Black community. The work we are doing with The CROWN Act is important because it shows the education that needs to happen in our country to end hair discrimination in schools, the workplace and now in pools – this has got to stop."
Lia Neal, two-time U.S. Olympic swimming medalist and founder of Swimmers for Change believes that FINA's decision was made from a lack of cultural perspective and representation. She continued: “This ended up having greater implications, one being subconsciously discouraging swimmers with natural hair, making them feel like they don't have a place in the sport on the international stage. The CROWN Act is an important step toward awareness for inclusivity and representation in pools and boardrooms alike."
She noted that protective hairstyles such as braids, locs, twists and knots are important styles often worn by Black people.