Shouts From The Stands: A Response To FINA Banning Soul Caps At Olympics

SwimSwam welcomes reader submissions about all topics aquatic, and if it’s well-written and well-thought, we might just post it under our “Shouts from the Stands” series. We don’t necessarily endorse the content of the Shouts from the Stands posts, and the opinions remain those of their authors. If you have thoughts to share, please send them to [email protected]

This “Shouts from the Stands” submission comes from Ed Accura, the producer of the film, “Blacks Can’t Swim,” and recently came out with a second film, “Blacks Can’t Swim The Sequel.”

The recent news story regarding the banning of swimming caps designed for Afro hair from the Olympics is a clear example of some of the systemic and institutional barriers that has led to very few Black people competing in aquatics and swimming in general.

According to the sport’s governing body, Swim England, only 2% of regular swimmers are Black. It found 95% of Black adults and 80% of Black children in England do not swim. While 79% of Asian adults and 79% of Asian children do not swim, Black children are three times more likely to drown than White children.

The drama documentaries ‘A Film Called Blacks Can’t Swim’ and ‘Blacks Can’t Swim The Sequel’ were created not only as a platform for the community to voice their frustrations and share their reasons as to why a disproportionate amount of Black and Asians do not swim, but also to educate the swimming sector and the world at large on these issues.

My 10 year old daughter who currently takes private swimming lessons has a full body of natural hair which does not fit comfortably in a standard swim cap and my biggest concern is that decisions like these sends out the message that there is no place for someone like her in elite swimming and we therefore end up with situations such as Alice Dearing being the only Black swimmer on Team GB.

Removing these barriers and making swimming attractive from a grass roots level is our only hope of success in making it inclusive and diverse enough to create a level playing field for all to enjoy and compete.

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Tomek
2 months ago

Correct me if I’m wrong but i believe FINA rejected the soul caps for international competition only? This rejection does not prevents anyone from buying the cap and using it for training or perhaps domestic competition? FINA most likely looked at all aspects of the application and decided to reject it because the cap did not offer benefit to elite swimmers regardless of hair type? Why everything has to be about the race these days? Is the goal of all of this is to create divisions between people of different color?

Hswimmer
Reply to  Tomek
2 months ago

Yes

vera
Reply to  Tomek
2 months ago

You’re missing the point. The cap clearly offers benefits to swimmers with certain hair types. The fact that the cap can still be purchased and used in domestic competition doesn’t change the fact that FINA’s rejection is a sign that they aren’t committed to making the international swimming stage welcoming for all elite-level swimmers.

vera
Reply to  vera
2 months ago

BTW, I’m white, so no, this isn’t about creating divisions among race lines.

BillyBob
Reply to  vera
2 months ago

You’re saying white people never try to create divisions based on race?

Dudeman
Reply to  vera
2 months ago

I think the caps made for natural hair are a great product and they should just be allowed. Their main market is for the average person wanting to swim for fitness anyways because I really don’t think any elite level swimmers would pick a cap like that for international competition anyways. Almost all of them across the board wear dome caps to reduce drag, or at the very least, form fitting silicone

PVSFree
Reply to  Tomek
2 months ago

The fact that it doesn’t offer any benefit to elite swimmers makes it even more confusing to me that they banned it. If no elite international swimmer is going to wear it, why not just say it’s allowed? Why go out of your way to ban it?

It also certainly doesn’t send the best signals about the swimming community. I think one of the greatest things about this sport is how objective it is – you are defined by your times, nothing else. That doesn’t leave any room for subjective interpretations of how good an athlete is, which (should) guard against a lot of racism that you see in other typically white sports (e.g. Tiger Woods in golf, Lewis Hamilton… Read more »

Beverly Drangus
Reply to  PVSFree
2 months ago

I agree that it was very silly for FINA to ban this particular cap. I’m having a harder time understanding how an esoteric rules judgment in some Swiss boardroom (and applicable only to major international competitions) is keeping POC from learning to swim or keeping people out of the sport “at the grassroots level.” Is the author’s 10 year old daughter really feeling unwelcome at her pool after reviewing the technical bulletin? Did people hear this news and disenroll their kids from their summer swim lessons? ‘What’s the point of learning to swim if in 15 years my kid will have to wear a slightly different swim cap for 60 seconds when they race at the Olympics?’

I accept… Read more »

another Tomek
Reply to  Tomek
2 months ago

What’s up Tomek you polish by any chance

fairisfair
2 months ago

From what I’ve learned, the application process for FINA is very stringent and MANY products that are submitted get turned down. Also, there is a deadline to submit an application. If the deadline is missed, you wait another calendar year. I’ve been told that Soul Cap missed the deadline and is trying to scramble to take advantage of the Olympic buzz by making it about race instead of them dropping the ball…and the sheep fall in line…
Maybe I have the facts, maybe I don’t, but wouldn’t it be a crazy idea to wait and see before we decide that FINA is racist? C’mon people! Soul Cap wasn’t banned, it just wasn’t approved for competitive swimming…yet. Let the company… Read more »

Swim nerd
Reply to  fairisfair
2 months ago

Soul caps’ marketing team did a great job with this. Not to say this is a marketing ploy, but they publicized it and made it about race. I never heard of soul caps prior to this ordeal, and I assume many other people didn’t either. Whatever the reason for the ban is, this shouldn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. The caps are banned at international competitions, thus 99.99% of people can swim in these caps whenever they want to.

Swim guy
2 months ago

Black community: we need more representation in the swimming sports and community
Ok so do you want to swim?
Black community: oh. No thanks

Taa
Reply to  Swim guy
2 months ago

All kids want to swim on a hot summer day. Its mostly a lack of facilities in poor/black neighborhoods that prevent this.

Arthur S
2 months ago

The point missed in this article is the soul cap is a huge loose fitting cap that no serious swimmer would ever wear. Just Google pictures of people wearing it. It was rejected as it doesn’t meet the existing cap rules requiring it to fit the shape of the head. The material might also be too thick. I think Fina also said they will look into the rules to try to be more accommodating in the future.