NEW YORK – The crowd was unusual in Iran sports history: It included men.
An exhibition women’s basketball game in Tehran last month was attended by Iran basketball federation president Mahmoud Mashhoun and other men.
They weren’t just there to watch the players. They were there to observe the uniforms.
Members of basketball’s governing body had a chance to see players wearing the hijab, which could be allowed permanently if a rule to permit religious headgear is approved during FIBA’s midterm congress on Thursday or Friday. FIBA’s central board approved the proposal on Wednesday.
“I think it will pass,” USA Basketball CEO Jim Tooley told a news agency “It came up in our board meeting and everyone supported making the change.”
FIBA’s technical committee had been preparing and studying proposals to safely allow headgear and the hope is a rule change will be enacted at the meeting.
“We are hopeful that FIBA will come up with a positive decision regarding the matter of headgear,” Mashhoun told FIBA.com after the game.
He attended the game, as did Lubomir Kotleba, an adviser to FIBA’s secretary general.
Under Iran’s strict Islamic norms, male fans are barred from attending women’s sporting events, but many are pushing to change that practice. Allowing the headgear may help.
FIBA told its playing rules committee in February to create a proposal that outlines how headgear can be worn safely during games. Now FIBA’s congress will vote to approve eliminating a longstanding ban on religious headgear in competition, clearing the way for athletes to wear hijabs, turbans and yarmulkes on the court starting in October. According to FIBA, headgear was banned for safety reasons two decades ago out of fear it could fall off, causing a player to slip or become entangled.
The change would be a welcome move by many, including Breanna Stewart, who was one of a dozen WNBA players who signed a letter on social media that was sent to FIBA president Horacio Muratore.
“I think it would mean a lot,” Stewart said. “Obviously with what’s going on in this world, we strive for equality. I think when you’re on the court or playing your sport, that’s your safe haven to get away from everything else that’s going on. It’s huge for them to be able to feel welcomed on the court and play.”