Soul Cap, a British Black-owned swimming cap made to protect Black hair made headlines when FINA (the international federation recognized by the International Olympic Committee for administering international competitions in water sports) banned its usage during the 2021 Tokyo Olympics. FINA wrote in a statement Friday that it is “currently reviewing the situation with regards to ‘Soul Cap’ and similar products, understanding the importance of inclusivity and representation.”
FINA previously stated that the ban was because Soul Cap swimming caps do not form naturally to the shape of the head, per the BBC.
This created a frenzy on social media as critics claimed that FINA’s ruling against the usage of the Soul Cap targeted Black swimmers.
Olympic Gold Medalist Michael Johnson tweeted, “Let me get this straight.@fina1908 banning this cap because “it doesn’t conform to natural curvature of the head” HTF are you supposed to fit a cap that does that if you have thick long curly hair? Come on! Do better!> #Soulcap”
Danielle Obe, founding member of the Black Swimming Association, told The Guardian, “We believe that it confirms a lack of diversity in (the sport),” she said. “Aquatic swimming must do better.”
Obe continued her point on the importance of inclusion in competitive swimming: “We need the space and the volume which products like the Soul Caps allow for. Inclusivity is realizing that no one head shape is ‘normal.’”
Alice Dearing, the first Black woman to represent Great Britain in the 2021 Olympics, showed great gratitude that she was selected to be an ambassador for Soul Cap. In 2019 she told the BBC that she remembers overhearing a Black girl saying, “the reason black girls don’t swim is because of their hair.”
Dearing praised Soul Cap back in February for observing an overarching issue in the Black community and “dispelling the myth that swimming equipment cannot be inclusive.”
“FINA’s recent dismissal could discourage many younger athletes from pursuing the sport as they progress through local, county, and national competitive swimming,” founders Michael Chapman and Toks Ahmed wrote to Soul Cap’s Instagram account. “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.”