Chantique Carey-Payne, the head coach of the University of Guelph’s swim team, said she was ‘completely shocked’ to hear FINA has banned Black female athletes from using Afro swim caps to protect their natural hair at this summer’s Olympics.
Black female swimmers have been told they cannot wear Afro swim caps at the upcoming Tokyo Olympics and that decision will impact swimmers at all other levels, says Carey-Payne.
The Fédération Internationale de Natation (FINA), or the International Swimming Federation, is the governing body for swimming. FINA banned the Black-owned British brand named Soul Cap, which is specifically designed to protect the hair of Black female swimmers, from the Olympics.
According to FINA, the caps do not fit the natural form of the head, but Soul Cap rejected that excuse, saying in a post on Instagram that athletes shouldn’t be forced to “choose between the sport they love and their hair.”
The controversy has sparked backlash and frustration from many athletes and others on social media.
Carey-Payne shared her thoughts with CBC K-W’s The Morning Edition host Craig Norris on Thursday. Below is a transcript of that interview, which has been edited for length and clarity.
Carey-Payne says that part of their reasoning was incredibly flawed because they stated that there’s never been a need for the use of the caps. They’ve just never needed it and no one’s ever complained about it basically beforehand. But it’s also never been available.
“It was just a very careless statement on their part to kind of push aside a whole community’s worries about their hair and swim caps and just kind of put it together as well, it’s never been needed in the past, so we don’t need it now…If it’s banned by the swimming federation, at least in Canada, it’s not allowed at our national competitions or our provincial competitions or regional competitions or invitationals. So it really affects all of the athletes, like children as young as 10 years old participating in the sport.
It’s not even just an elite sport issue. It’s an issue for the entirety of the sport of swimming.”
Carey-Payne added that, as the head coach of the U of Guelph swimming team, there has been only four Black female swimmers from 2007 to the present. She suggested that the reason why there are so few has to do with the Black community in general due to a systemic issue stemming back decades and decades, hundreds of years ago. During slavery Blacks were not allowed to learn to swim in order to limit their ability to escape.
However, she said that sports is “amazing for any and every human being. It teaches us so much, but definitely don’t let anybody tell you that you can’t do it even if you don’t see yourself there.”
“Black people may not be prevalent in every sport, but it doesn’t mean we can’t do it and I think I’ve proven that. A lot of Black athletes around the world are continuing to prove that every single day. So, if you’re passionate about it, absolutely go do it. Don’t let anything get in your way.”