Raptors launch team-branded hijabs in fan outreach

The International Basketball Federation and FIFA lifted bans on head coverings in recent years. (File/AFP)
Updated 15 September 2019

Raptors launch team-branded hijabs in fan outreach

  • The Raptors say they are the first NBA team to offer an athletic hijab for Muslim women
  • The International Basketball Federation and FIFA lifted bans on head coverings in recent years

TORONTO: The Toronto Raptors say a new line of team-branded hijabs is part of an effort to be more inclusive to fans of all cultures.

The team’s parent company, Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, unveiled the Nike Pro hijabs emblazoned with the team logo in a social media post Friday.

The Raptors say they are the first NBA team to offer an athletic hijab for Muslim women. MLSE senior marketing director Jerry Ferguson says the organization was inspired to create the hijabs by a local Muslim women’s organization known as the Hijabi Ballers.

The women regularly play basketball at a community court associated with the team. Ferguson told The Canadian Press the Raptors want to send a message of inclusion to its diverse fan base, which grew substantially during last season’s run to the team’s first NBA title.

“One of the things that we are very interested in is moving from saying we are just about inclusivity and accessibility, and finding ways to bring products and ideas to market that actually prove that,” he said by phone.

The International Basketball Federation and FIFA lifted bans on head coverings in recent years. The National Council of Canadian Muslims praised the Hijabi Ballers for spurring the Raptors to act. Mustafa Farooq, the council’s executive director, acknowledged that the issue of hijabs in sports has proved divisive. Opponents have called them a symbol of oppression.

“It’s hard for me to understand that,” Farooq said. “One of the beautiful things about sports is that everyone can play. Highlighting that ... everyone should get a shot is such a beautiful thing to do, so obviously we thank the Raptors for taking this step.”


Russian athletics champ blasts own sports authorities

Updated 11 December 2019

Russian athletics champ blasts own sports authorities

  • Lasitskene, a three-time world champion, has in the past been critical of Russia’s athletics federation

MOSCOW: Russian high jump world champion Maria Lasitskene on Tuesday accused her country’s own sports authorities of failing to protect athletes from the deepening doping crisis, in a rare public broadside at top officials.

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) on Monday handed Russia a new, this time four-year, ban from top global sporting events, including the next summer and winter Olympics and the 2022 soccer World Cup, for tampering with laboratory data.

The ruling means Russian athletes cleared to compete at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics will do so under a neutral flag. But Lasitskene and some other Russian track and field athletes face additional obstacles to being cleared for competition.

“I’ve already missed one Olympics and one-and-a-half years of international competition,” Lasitskene wrote in an open letter addressed to Russia’s sports authorities.

“And it seems that’s not the end of it. So who ultimately is to blame? Who’s going to give me back what I’ve lost?” she wrote in the letter published on Russian sports media outlet Championat.Com.

Lasitskene, a three-time world champion, has in the past been critical of Russia’s athletics federation, which has been suspended for doping since 2015, and has been one of the few Russian athletes to voice her anger publicly.

World Athletics, the global body governing athletics, last month halted the reinstatement procedures for Russia’s athletics federation after its president and six others were provisionally suspended for serious breaches of anti-doping rules.

As a result of these fresh sanctions, World Athletics also said it was reviewing the process it has used in the past to clear some Russians, including Lasitskene, to compete internationally as neutrals.

“Why have we arrived at a situation when an athlete is supposed to be delighted about getting neutral status?” Lasitskene wrote.

“Was the Sports Ministry and Russian Olympic Committee really happy with the Russian athletics federation’s work?”

The president of Russia’s Olympic Committee, Stanislav Pozdnyakov, on Monday dismissed the sanctions against Russia as inappropriate and excessive.