US: Sikh high-school students removed from football game by referee for wearing turban


A Sikh professor from New York University on September 28 highlighted the lack of cultural and religious understanding after a Sikh high-school student was removed from a high-school football game by a referee for wearing a turban.

In his tweets, Simran Jeet Singh said, “A referee refused to let a Sikh high school student play in a soccer game because he was wearing a turban. This is religious discrimination. And it illustrates a complete lack of cultural and religious understanding. It’s not right that kids around this country are put in a position to choose between their love for faith and sport. It’s heartbreaking too. I grew up playing soccer in Texas and faced discrimination from referees more than once for my Sikh turban. Some accused me of hiding bombs. Fortunately, I had incredible teammates and coaches who consistently stood up for my right to play while practicing my Sikh faith,” he said.

Officials from the Marple-Newtown School District said the incident occurred on Tuesday when the high school student was playing against the Conestoga High team, according to WPVI-TV.

The referee reportedly cited National Federation of High School Soccer rules that state: “Illegal equipment shall not be worn by any player. Types of equipment which are illegal include, but are not limited to helmets, hats, caps or visors.”

In a statement, school district attorney Mark Sereni wrote, “Our district was surprised to learn yesterday that, according to a PIAA soccer referee’s decision, the PIAA apparently does not have a rule that reasonably accommodates the wearing of religious headwear by our student athletes who play soccer.”

However, FIFA, the international football body, in a 2014 statement had ruled that the risks of sport injuries from turbans, hijabs and kippas were not significant and did not justify a ban. “It was decided that the players could have their heads covered for play. We are talking about discrimination, vis-a-vis of women most of the time. You cannot discriminate [against] men. So it was decided that what applies to females can apply the male players,” FIFA had said back then.

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