Two From The “When Ethics Alarms Don’t Ring” Files: The Women

Soul Cap

I. The Cap.

There aren’t a lot of competitive black swimmers, for a number of reasons, but wouldn’t you think that authorities in the swimming field would have some sensitivity to their special needs when the situation presents itself? I would, or did, and is often the case, I was wrong.

A women’s swim cap designed for African-American hair, called the Soul Cap (above), is meant to accommodate the thicker, curlier hair of black women to provide a better fit and protect hair from chlorine. Ahead of the Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo which begin later this month, the International Swimming Federation (FINA) banned the use of the cap,  ruling that “athletes competing at the international events never used, neither require to use, caps of such size and configuration,” and that the Soul Cap does not follow “the natural form of the head.”  This is, of course, ridiculous, since the number of black women who have competed in swimming events in the Olympics can be counted on the fingers of one hand, so of course the caps break with tradition and common use. Whatever their bone-headed logic, how could the FINA hacks not figure out that such a ruling would appear tone deaf at best and racist at worst, especially in the middle of the George Floyd Freakout?

After the completely predictable (and fair) backlash, now the body says that it is “currently reviewing the situation with regards to ‘Soul Cap’ and similar products, understanding the importance of inclusivity and representation.”

There have never been any allegations that the caps confer any competitive advantage. This is how people with dead ethics alarms fuel claims of “systemic racism.”

II. The All-Women Broadcast Team

When the Pittsburgh Pirates fielded an all-black team in September of 1971, even the players weren’t aware of the history-making moment until they looked around the field. The line-up hadn’t been constructed that way to make a point, or to get in the Guinness Book of Records. That was just the best team the Pirates could field that day. “When it comes to making out the lineup,” then-Pirates manager Danny Murtaugh said. “I’m colorblind and my athletes know it.” Similarly, when Celtics head coach Red Auerbach put the NBA’s first all-black starting five on a basketball court on Dec. 26, 1964, it was a decision borne of necessity and the coach’s assessment of the best talent he had available.

But when an all-female broadcast crew handles the MLB Game of the Week Live on YouTube next week between the Baltimore Orioles and Tampa Bay Rays, that “milestone,” as it is being called, will have none of the legitimacy of those two episodes. It will be a stunt, straight up. Worse, the all-female crew—Melanie Newman, the Orioles’ radio play-by-play announcer since last year, Sarah Langs, a  baseball analyst and writer for,  Alanna Rizzo, who will do the on-field reporting,  and Heidi Watney and Lauren Gardner, anchoring the pre- and postgame shows—will have been selected not because of their inherent superiority in their respective jobs for that day, but because of their gender and only because of their gender. That makes the team inherently discriminatory, but that’s OK—discriminating against men is just fine these days, just like discriminating against whites. It’s OK because those groups deserve to be discriminated against. This is compensatory discrimination.

There is something else discriminatory about that history-making team. Can you tell me what it is? Here is the group:

All girl

Yes, they are all young, all svelte, and all attractive, specifically chosen to appeal to male viewers. (They have also advanced in their chosen field because they also appeal to the men doing the hiring.)  A group of middle-aged, chunky, homely women who happen to be knowledgeable about baseball and have good broadcast voices would really be historic. Don’t hold your breath waiting for that milestone.

And not a single African-American woman in sight! Do you think MLB will hear about that? I hope they do. Once you have made it clear that your employment choices are based on virtue-signalling and politics rather than merit, you deserve to be dragged to death on the slippery slope.



12 thoughts on “Two From The “When Ethics Alarms Don’t Ring” Files: The Women

  1. Haven’t the broadcast executives involved been watching any television commercials they’ve been airing lately? Didn’t they realize white people can’t be seen on television, unless they’re married to the person of color? Maybe all these girls have racially correct partners. That’s it!

  2. I. I always understood that a swim cap fit snugly to the head in order to reduce drag in the water, allowing competitors to swim faster (as well as protecting hair from chlorine and keeping hair out of the pool filter). Whether a swimmers hair is unusually thick, unusually long, or both, there are already traditional form-fitting swim caps designed for women with longer, thicker hair. The photo of the Soul Cap shows it to be somewhat baggy, which would certainly generate more resistance in the water. The Soul Cap looks more like a fashion statement rather than an filling an unmet need in the world of competitive swimming.
    I wonder, will white swimmers with “thicker, curlier hair” be permitted to use the Soul Cap, or would that be cultural appropriation?

  3. I have a piece in the works on four controversies involving black women and the Olympics. Alas, it’s taking forever to write.
    The story about the swim caps seems the hardest of the four to justify from the perspective of what we used to call The Man. If anything, the increased drag would be a disadvantage, so what’s the problem? And it’s been 10 days since the decision to re-consider. How long does it take to say, “Um… we screwed up. This is a disaster in both ethical and PR terms. Let’s fix it.”?

  4. Re: No. 1; The Case of the Cap.

    This, my friends, is similar to the case of Sha’Carri Richardson who has been declared ineligible for testing positive for marijuana, which is still a banned substance under the IOC rules, but has been spun to make race a central reason for disqualification. She may have smoked pot in a place where it was legal but it’s still banned under the rules, so . . .

    The cap issue is even dumber. I thought I read that the issue wasn’t solely the form of the cap but how and when Soul Cap applied for authorization with FINA for their use of their caps in FINA-accepted competitions. I can’t find the article but I thought they applied too late for approval this year. But, hey, FINA will do the right thing and accommodate the cap to save diversity, right?

    The other thing that irks me is that this is not a US problem. Soul Cap is designed by a BRITISH company and has been marketed to British swimmers, primarily black women who wear their hair in mighty dreads or weaves.

    Alice Dearing, a British Olympian, has an endorsement deal with Soul Cap. Somehow she thinks that prohibiting use of the bigger caps will dissuade black girls from swimming. I am highly skeptical that black kids aren’t going to swim because swim caps aren’t made to accommodate black hair. Caps aren’t supposed to keep hair dry – they are supposed to reduce the amount of drag in the water. That’s why they are tighter and form-fitting.

    The Soul Cap is larger and does not conform to the shape of the head because it is made to accommodate longer, thicker hair, or hair infused with braids or extensions. Yeah, chlorine damages human hair – it’s a natural fact and not something exclusive to black hair. How do I know? Well, our son is a competitive club swimmer and uses the tight-fitting caps – by the end of a summer that boy’s hair is beyond bleached blonde. But when he lets his hair grow longer, his swim cap doesn’t fit properly and falls off during races.

    The larger, dread-and-weave-accommodating caps increase drag, which in competition can make or break a swimmer’s performance and placement. Remember, these caps are being used in competition and not training/practice sessions or splashing about in the pool. It’s a simple problem. Tech suits (ungodly expensive and are only good for two or three meets [at $350 a pop for a man’s tech suit and over $600 for a woman’s suit, that’s a ton of cash to lay out on a regular basis]) perform the same function in that they are tight, compress the body to reduce drag in the water. When you are fighting other swimmers at that level, some competitions go down to thousandths of seconds, which means a proper tech suit, goggles, and cap are integral to that result.


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