Israeli point guard could sit because of religious T-shirt spat

Chris Chase
Fourth-Place Medal

A point guard on the Israeli national basketball team could miss the European championships because of restrictions that ban her from wearing a T-shirt under her jersey.

As an Orthodox Jew, Naama Shafir wears a T-shirt on the court to follow Jewish modesty rules that require women to keep their shoulders covered. Because international basketball regulations require teams to wear the same uniform, Shafir has been informed that she will not be allowed to play with the T-shirt underneath her basketball tank-top.

Shafir plays at the University of Toledo and has been able to wear the shirt throughout her American career.

This is the second time this week that religious observances have gotten in the way of international sporting uniform code. The Iranian women's soccer team forfeited a match after soccer's governing body refused to let the women wear hjiabs during Olympic qualifying.

That rule, while equally misguided, was in place for a valid reason. Head scarves presented a choking issue to players, so their ban was a practical regulation made in the name of player safety. It follows similar prohibitions about wearing jewelry during play. (Players can't have a cross around their neck, for instance.)

Wearing a T-shirt under a tank top has nothing to do with player safety. It's merely aesthetic. The NBA prohibits the practice, mainly because professional sports leagues like to have everything looking uniform. College basketball players have long sported the T-shirt look, with Patrick Ewing serving as the trailblazer when he was at Georgetown.

The cool thing would be for all of Shafir's teammates to put a T-shirt under their jerseys as a sign of solidarity. The easier thing would be for FIBA to make an exception and let Shafir honor her religion while playing for her country.

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