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Article by Nona Willis Aronowitz

FIFA has just ruled thatIran’s women soccer team will not be able to compete in the Olympics because their headscarves violate the association’s dress code. The decision came right before an Olympic qualifier against Jordan last Friday. Iran’s football federation claimed they made changes to the team uniforms after a similar ban last year, but FIFA, the preeminent international soccer authority, has nevertheless deemed the team ineligible.

Since the decision, Iran president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has called FIFA officials “dictators and colonialists,” and officials will protest the decision. But FIFA hasn’t budged, saying their decision was for “safety reasons.”

The organization does not permit team kits that cover the ears or neck, but that’s not the only issue. FIFA’s rules also state that “players and officials shall not display political, religious, commercial or personal messages or slogans in any language or form on their playing or team kits.”

The issue of physical harm is one thing; I’m sure there are myriad tweaks of either the headscarf’s design or the FIFA rule that can happen to accommodate the other side. The bigger issue is whether the ban on religious messages in team sports is a justified reason for effectively putting to an end Iranian women’s soccer. These women are undoubtedly thinking: “It’s an 107-year-old organization’s rules versus an ancient religious text’s!” Practitioners of religion have no choice in the matter; FIFA can simply change their rules.

But FIFA has a strict policy about the separation between church and field. From their perspective, Iran’s hijab law is the sticking point that will end the players’ hopes for a medal, not FIFA’s dress code.

Still, plenty of other nations’ players openly flaunt their faith with cross necklaces and public prayer. Sports photographers have no problem snapping emotional photos of athletes looking up to the sky in ecstasy and crossing themselves before a game. These acts are admittedly an individual choice rather than a collective display, but why is a team wearing modified hijabs so very different?

For me, what it comes down to is advantage. As long as head coverings don’t give the team a leg up, who cares? I’m as atheist as they come, and personally I don’t agree with a nation mandating the way anyone dresses. But I’d rather see all women be able to fulfill their Olympic ambitions than see them being held to a standard of secular purity—particularly when the reinforcement of that purity is so arbitrary and, at this point, not up to Iranian women to decide.

photo from Football Federation of Iran

via Good.is

Nigerian NFL player Brendon Ayanbadejo is currently a star linebacker for the Baltimore Ravens. He’s also rabidly dedicated to equality for all. As Maryland legislators prepare to debate the adoption of same-sex marriage in their state, Ayanbadejo has partnered with Equality Maryland to release a statement in support of gay marriage rights.

“[A]n important issue in our state is whether or not to allow gay and lesbian couples who love each other to marry,” Ayanbadejo says in the video below. “Gay and lesbian couples want to marry for similar reasons as we all do: love and commitment. It’s time to allow them the opportunity to build a family through marriage. It’s a matter of fairness.”

Ayanbadejo’s willingness to stand up for what he believes in is commendable any way you look at it. But it’s especially remarkable considering how homophobic the NFL can be.

According to Mike Freeman, a sports columnist for CBS, one gay NFL athlete with whom he spoke for a book he was writing told Freeman he was “dead” if his teammates found out he was a homosexual. The player, who went by the pseudonym Steven Thompson, told Freeman that “gay men were routinely viewed as animals and people to be feared, if not outright eliminated.”

In other words, good for Ayanbadejo, but we’ve still got a long way to go.

Al Davis must love amusement parks because he is taking “Raider Nation” for a ride on the “Coaching Carousel” once again.

After finishing the the season with an 8-8 record, the team’s best since 2002, Al Davis notified Tom Cable, he would not be returning next season as the coach of the Oakland Raiders.  Not only did Cable turn things around from a very dramatic offseason, which involved abuse allegations and the whole JaMarcus Russel episode, but he managed to post a 6-0 record within his own division.  Many Raider players publicly voiced their opposition to this decision, which proves Cable had the player support to make even larger strides next season.

This is clearly going to be a hindering decision if the organization does not hire from within the current coaching staff, more specifically Offensive Coodinator, Hue Jackson.  Jackson has been credited for this years offensive explosion and seems to be an up and coming head coaching candidate throughout the league.  The San Francisco 49′ers have tabbed Jackson as a possible head coaching candidate if Jim Harbaugh decides to stay in college football as the coach of the Stanford football team.  If that scenario occurs, and Jackson is named the new Niners head coach, the Raiders will be in a very bad situation.

But then again, since when did Al Davis actually care about the Raiders.

 

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