American basketball player Tiffany Mitchell has accused Basketball Australia of showing ‘clear racial discrimination’ after she was instructed to tie back her braids.
Mitchell, 27, has played basketball ‘all around the world, in every top league at the highest level’, and, until now, her braids have ‘never been an issue’.
However, last week, the Melbourne Boomers player was reportedly approached about her hair and told that, ahead of the start of the regular season, she wouldn’t be permitted to play if she ‘didn’t tie my hair up or wear it in a bun’.
In an Instagram post detailing her recent experiences, Mitchell stated that an email was also sent to coaches and referees, so as to ensure ‘the ‘rule’ was in place for ‘the players’ with braids’. The reason given was so as to avoid any injuries to other players if they were to be struck by the braids.
Now in I don’t know how many years this league chooses to enforce this ‘FIBA’ rule about the length of someone’s hair. Braids specifically, of course people with ‘free braids’ as they call it apparently its clear only the black people in this league has these type of braids.
After approaching Basketball Australia to express her ‘discomfort’, it initially stated that this was a FIBA rule it had been told to enforce, later backtracking ‘because it was actually a rule in FIBA that wasn’t even in place anymore’.
Referencing the photographs she’d uploaded in her Instagram post, Mitchell continued:
You can clearly see in the second picture before my first game the pain I was still carrying because how are you enforcing a rule that isn’t even a rule anymore, the target I felt I had on my back was indescribable but still played with all the disappoint I felt from Basketball Australia.
Mitchell went on to express gratitude to her club for showing support for her and another teammate with braids, with the team taking the knee ahead of a game ‘to combat Basketball Australia and the false ruling they put out’.
Although this didn’t change how she ‘felt inside about the entire situation’, this show of solidarity gave Mitchell ‘a sense of comfort knowing that the ladies that I suit up with every night had my teammate and I backs’.
Goes to show we have a long way to go for equality all over the world. Unfortunate it had to be for these conversations to happen but happy that Basketball Australia is held accountable and become aware of the ignorance that was displayed in this situation.
Basketball Australia has since made a statement to The Age, confirming that it had now ‘reviewed the rule’ in question and had it removed, deeming it ‘discriminatory and inconsistent with Basketball Australia’s Diversity and Inclusion framework by the WNBL Commission’.
The governing body has also issued ‘an unreserved apology for any anguish and pain that was caused by this rule’.
If you have been affected by any of the issues in this article and wish to speak to someone in confidence, contact Stop Hate UK by visiting their website www.stophateuk.org/talk
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