The hijab has been a controversial subject in the world of sports for some time, with numerous athletes being banned from wearing these pieces while playing sports. Only more recently have professional competitions started to lift these regulations. Up until 2014, for example, FIFA didn’t permit athletes to compete with hijabs on. To be fair, this isn’t always a racist issue, but rather a safety precaution, but it has spiked a lot of controversy nevertheless.
And Nike is keeping pace. The sportswear company has designed a lightweight hijab for female Muslim athletes, taking the safety concerns and high demand for comfortable, athletic hijabs into consideration. Although Nike doesn’t have the greatest reputation, given the countless allegations of child slavery, bribery, doping, and more against them, it’s still wonderful to see the company making clothing that’s inclusive and forward thinking.
How Nike Designed the “Pro Hijab”
Hijabs have been heavily criticized in regards to sports, as they are considered a potential physical risk, especially in high contact sports. With these comments in mind, Nike gathered research from different communities on what’s considered culturally appropriate for hijab designs and created their first athletic hijab.
“These new garments were again wear tested by elite Nike athletes, like the groundbreaking Emirati figure skater Zahra Lari and Nike+ Run Club Coach Manal Rostom. Everyday athletes from around the Middle East also assessed the hijabs,” Nike explained in a statement.
The Nike Pro hijab is in part inspired by the female Emirati Olympic weightlifting athlete Amna Al Haddad, as she actually visited Nike’s sport research lab at their global headquarters in Oregon. Amna had complained about the hijab she used for competitions, explaining that there were very limited options for hijabs that are comfortable and lightweight enough to compete in. As a result, Amna had to wash her hijab every single night during competitions.
“The Nike Pro Hijab was designed as a direct result of our athletes telling us they needed this product to perform better, and we hope that it will help athletes around the world do just that,” Global Nike Spokeswoman Megan Saalfeld explained.
“From there, we worked with Amna and a variety of other athletes to see what they needed and wanted in a performance hijab. What we heard was that women were looking for a lightweight and breathable solution that would stay in place without concern of shifting,” Saalfeld continued.
Middle Eastern countries obviously have a warmer climate, so Nike also took this into consideration when designing the hijabs, using lightweight mesh polyester to maximize breathability.
This May Be a Game Changer, But It Doesn’t Correct Nike’s Wrongdoings
The Nike Pro hijab will likely be a game changer, as it will open up more doors for female athletes and help put an end to the stigma surrounding hijabs in the world of sports. With its slim fitting design, Nike has created a safer alternative to traditional hijabs, so hopefully this will put an end to the argument on whether or not hijabs pose a safety threat to competitors.
At the end of the day, women should have the right to play sports, follow their dreams, and pursue their passions, regardless of their religion. Yes, religion can create separatism, but who are we to tell others what they can and cannot wear? If these women want to wear hijabs while playing sports, then they should have the right to do so, and if Nike is willing to help these women accomplish their goals, we should applaud them.
However, let’s not forget the corrupt operations that Nike has been leading for several years. For a long time, the company battled its “sweatshop” image because it was caught employing children, underpaying its labourers overseas, and forcing them to work in unfit working conditions. Nike arguably redefined modern day slavery and shed a lot of light on how terrible sweatshop conditions can be.
Some sources state that Nike was paying their workers as low as $1.60 per day in these facilities, a wage that’s incomprehensible to most North Americans. Yes, the cost of living is far less in “third world countries,” but that’s still obviously not enough to feed and house anyone, anywhere. Nike has also been accused of bribery and other corrupt practices in the past.
Let’s hope that with the implementation of the new hijab, Nike continues to shift the company to become more forward-thinking, more inclusive, and less corrupt!
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