Nasihah Thompson, a 16-year-old African-American basketball player from Mastery Charter School, Philadelphia, was prevented from playing in a basketball game by the referee due to her headscarf. “My hijab is part of me, and I feel like I was going to take off a part of me to play in the game,” said the high school sophomore after the incident.
A hijab doesn’t impact someone’s ability to play sports
Nasihah didn’t accept the condition of removing her hijab. She has played in her high school basketball team for years whilst wearing the hijab. She explained that her mother and she, in the previous years, never required a religious waiver in order for her to play the game. “I felt upset because I wanted to play the game.” Nasihah plays for the Mastery Charter North-Pickett Pumas which is part of Philadelphia Public League’s District 12.
“The official took it upon herself to essentially enforce a rule that could have been avoided with much better judgement knowing very well that this does not impact a student-athlete’s ability to play basketball any better than anyone else in any way, shape, or form,” James Patrick Lynch said, President of Philadelphia Public League.
There is incentive to remove officials’ authority in demanding a waiver for sport’s uniform
Noting that the school has a large Muslim population, the principal Sharif El-Mekki claimed that he was shocked to hear this: “This is unacceptable.” Lynch said he would be reaching out to the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA) to discuss amending its rules. PIAA governs the referees officiating at the games. Lynch informed that he wants to eliminate the need for student-athletes to seek a waiver in order to alter their uniforms for religious reasons, as well as to remove the authority from officials to even address the issue. “There should be no need for a waiver form or exception to be granted for a student to have the same rights as everybody else,” he added.
Nasihah’s mother shares her thoughts in this debate
As for Nasihah’s mother, Fatima Thompson, she called on the PIAA to apologize to her daughter and amend its rules governing religious waivers. “There should be no accommodation form necessary for someone who wears the hijab to play sports in the state of Pennsylvania,” she said. Thompson also expressed her daughter made her proud because she dares to stand up for her religious beliefs.President Lynch seems to be supportive of Nasihah playing the game wearing her hijab.
Nasihah believes the issue isn’t entirely behind her
As Nasihah looks forward to playing in the championship game, the mastery basketball player also mentioned that the issue over her hijab is not fully resolved. “I don’t think the issue is behind me,” Nasihah said. “I still want the PIAA to change and get rid of the waiver. It’s completely unnecessary for us to have a waiver to cover up and they should terminate it.”
For a 16-year-old to stand up for her religious beliefs and her passion for basketball really shows her determinacy and readiness to face upcoming challenges throughout her basketball journey.