Nike star Ibtihaj Muhammad attacks French attitude to sports hijab

US fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad takes part in the Nike show to present feminine world soccer cup jerseys in Paris on 11 March, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 12 March 2019

Nike star Ibtihaj Muhammad attacks French attitude to sports hijab

  • Ibtihajj Muhammad and representatives of her sponsors, Nike, criticized French attitudes to the hijab
  • The Nike hijab provoked a strong reaction in France

PARIS: American Olympic fencer Ibtihajj Muhammad and representatives of her sponsors, Nike, criticized French attitudes to the hijab on a promotional visit to the country.
Muhammad was attending a long-planned event in Paris at which the US sportswear brand launched their strips for 14 nations, including the hosts, in the women’s World Cup in France this summer.
In February, the American sportswear company was embroiled in a controversy when retailer Decathlon withdrew sports Nike’s hijab from its French stores after one day following threats.
“I’ll be in my @Nike pro hijab every damn day,” Muhammad, who in 2016 became the first American to compete in a hijab in the Games, tweeted before traveling to France.
“It’s sad to me that France has not joined the global conversation around inclusively, around diversity. To prohibit a company from selling a sport hijab is shameful,” the Olympic bronze medallist told AFP on Monday.
“I think that it hurts much more than it helps your nation here.”
Bert Hoyt, a Nike vice president, said the company were looking forward to the women’s World Cup in France.
“Our goal is to provide the access for all women to have the opportunity to play sport and to play women’s football,” he said.
“We believe that we are at the beginning of a journey and we believe that the World Cup in June will be a tipping point for the future of the women’s game.”
The Nike hijab provoked a strong reaction in France.
A spokeswoman for President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist party, Aurore Berge, said the sports hijab goes against French “values.”
Lydia Guirous of the center-right Republicans said it went hand in hand with “the submission of women.”
Muhammad disagreed.
“I think you’re not a feminist if you believe that wearing a hijab is not a choice,” she said. “Anyone who believes in individual rights, freedom of choice, should support women who choose to wear it.
“It’s not your choice. It should be our choice.
“And anyone who sees a problem with that does not belong in sport, because sport is a place that it supposed to be inclusive of everyone, not matter where you’re from, your sexual orientation, your faith, your skin color, your gender, it doesn’t matter,” she said.
In the French government, only Sports Minister Roxana Maracineanu supported the sale of the hijab.
“I want to go and get women, mothers, girls wherever they are and as they are, to encourage them to practice sport, because it is, I am convinced, a powerful lever of emancipation,” Maracineanu said.
Muhammad’s hijab is not visible once she dons her fencing mask.
“I do not necessarily need a sports hijab to practice the sport I’m doing, but I know it has made my life easier,” she said.
“I hope it will help women all over the world to be more integrated by being active. There are so many stereotypes and bad perceptions that exist about the Muslim community,” she said.


Dates and bigger prize money purse announced for Saudi Cup 2021

Updated 13 min 50 sec ago

Dates and bigger prize money purse announced for Saudi Cup 2021

  • Prince Bandar bin Khalid Al-Faisal, chairman of the JCSA, made the announcement and said he was keen to build on the success of the inaugural Saudi Cup in February 2020

RIYADH: The Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia (JCSA) on Tuesday announced the return of the world’s richest horse race, the $20 million Saudi Cup, as well as a prize money increase and a new international race at the February 19-20 event.

At a series of press events held via video link from King Abdulaziz Racecourse in Riyadh, Prince Bandar bin Khalid Al-Faisal, chairman of the JCSA, made the announcement and said he was keen to build on the success of the inaugural Saudi Cup in February this year.

“It’s hard to overstate the success of Saudi Cup 2020 when you consider that in year one of a brand-new international racing event, we attracted some of the very best horses, trainers and jockeys in the world,” he said. “We witnessed 22 individual Group or Grade 1 winners, who had accumulated an impressive 34 wins at that level between them. That would be an excellent statistic for even the most well-established race meetings in the world, let alone to have that calibre in year one.”

Prince Bandar also revealed that the prize money across the whole Saudi Cup event next year would increase from $29.2m to $30.5m.

Next year's event is scheduled a week earlier than the inaugural event, and the free-to-enter, free-to-run 1,800 meter Saudi Cup with a purse of $20 million remains the highlight of the eight-race card, which now features a boost to the prize money of three dirt races on the undercard.

The 1,600m Saudi Derby sees a prize money increase from $800,000 to $1.5m. The Obaiya Cup for Purebred Arabians held over 2,000m will now be worth $2 million, up from $1.9 million while the purse for The Jockey Club Local Handicap will double to $1 million up from $500,000.

The International Jockeys Challenge, held the Friday before the Saudi Cup will once again see 14 of the world’s best jockeys, seven women, five international men and two Saudi-based jockeys, compete.

Lisa Allpress became the first woman to win a race in Saudi Arabia this year when the four-time New Zealand champion claimed the opening leg of the challenge. The overall title was won by another woman, Swiss jockey, Sibylle Vogt with French female rider, Mickaelle Michel second and US Hall of Famer, Mike Smith third. Each of the four legs of the Jockeys Challenge are again worth $400,000 in prize money and contested on the dirt track.

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READ MORE: Saudi Cup: All eyes on Riyadh as the world’s most valuable horse race debuts

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The first staging of the Saudi Cup weekend showcased a number of “firsts” for the Kingdom and saw the JCSA plan and deliver two days of top class racing. As well as raising the profile of Saudi Arabia as a racing and sporting venue, the event successfully introduced the country’s first turf track, a surface acclaimed by jockeys and trainers, and celebrated the first female jockeys not only to ever ride under rules in the country, but also to win races.

In 2020 the Saudi Cup card saw 64 foreign runners, representing ten different countries, take on 26 locally trained rivals in the seven international races. Five of these races witnessed overseas victories. 

The event in 2021 will also see the running of a new race, held on Friday — the $500,000 Saudi International Handicap will be held over 2,100m of the turf track.

Horses must be trained in a country which is not included among the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities’ Part I nations, subject to quarantine protocols being in place and must have had at least one run in their trainer’s country prior to entry.

Locally trained horses must have had a least one run in Saudi Arabia by February 1, 2021.

“With the changes we bring to Saudi Cup 2021 we hope to offer the racing and sporting public the most interesting and intriguing race cards possible, whether they are able to be with us in person or watching from home,” said Prince Bandar.

“The 2020 event was a great beginning but now we turn our attention to year two and to taking on board the lessons we learned from year one. We will be using that knowledge to steer the JCSA and the Saudi Cup weekend to new heights, building regional and international bridges within the industry to engage with global racing fans, inspire domestic involvement and enhance not only our own offering but that of racing as a global sport.”

Tom Ryan the JCSA’s Director of Strategy and International Racing said: “To have the sport’s key players bring their horses to an untested and unproven event and furthermore to see the progressive form that those horses have displayed since is something for the JCSA to be proud of. The strength of form to come out of our event acts as a great advert to trainers and owners next year.

“Mishriff, trained in England by John Gosden, would be one we could point to having won his next three starts following his second place in the Saudi Derby, including the Group 1 Prix du Jockey-Club [French Derby].

“Call The Wind, who won the Red Sea Turf Handicap was a Group 3 winner on his first outing back in France and followed up with a runner up spot in a Group 2 and another Group 3 win.

“In addition, a number of horses have held their form since the Saudi Cup race itself. As well as the winner, Midnight Bisou, Tacitus, McKinzie, Chrysoberyl and Magic Wand have all won Group races on either a first or second appearance and indicate that horses travel well to the Saudi Cup and even return to their global campaigns having come on for the run.

Ryan acknowledged the significant global challenges to holding international sporting events saying: “It is nevertheless a difficult time to stage large-scale global events and we know that now the real hard work begins. We will keep the lines of communication open and work closely with the authorities as we seek to hold this event in the best and safest way possible.”