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Player forced out of competitive basketball over hijab ban speaks out on helping overturn the ‘discriminatory headgear rule’

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The echo of the bounce still rings in my ears. The scent of a freshly waxed hardwood floor still lingers in my nose. The texture of the leather ball is still so familiar to my hands. I miss basketball.

Basketball showed me the world, taught me discipline, comforted me during adversity, and provided a foundation for my faith. I never imagined my world without it.

But in 2014, an international rule set by the global basketball federation, FIBA, forced me to consider life without basketball. It also forced me to make a choice no one should have to make: one between faith and sport.

This week, after years of campaigning, that damaging and discriminatory ban on my Muslim headcovering known as a hijab is over. This will allow millions of Muslim women to play the sport I love — and that they love. But the ban on wearing a religious headcovering never should have been implemented in the first place, and the delay in repealing it cost me and many other women years of playing.

I started playing basketball at age 4. I scored more points than anyone — male or female — in Massachusetts high school basketball history. After I graduated from high school in 2010, I became the first NCAA player to compete while wearing a hijab.

 

U.S. President Barack Obama plays basketball with Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir (R) as he takes a tour of the exercise activities at the annual Easter Egg Roll at the White House in Washington April 6, 2015. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst – GF10000051121

But when I wanted to keep playing after college, the international basketball federation known as FIBA claimed my hijab could cause injury to others and was a “safety” risk. I was suddenly forced to choose between basketball and my faith, two things I love.

I would lose a piece of myself either way it went; but which piece was most important?

Muslim born and raised, I felt bad even considering removing my hijab to play basketball. Would I take off my hijab and play, or would I stand firm against FIBA and its discriminatory “headgear” rule?

As a Muslim, connecting with God through prayer is how we navigate trying times. So, I prayed my way through the decision. These prayers felt different than the prayers I had made in the past. I was praying with a purpose. Things began to make sense. I reconnected with my true identity and realized that I am more than a basketball player; I could be a representative for every woman and girl who looks like me.

I realized I had a duty to stand up for myself and others; to use my voice to change the narrative around Islam and Muslims. Thus the battle against FIBA, the powerful basketball rule-setter, began.

FIBA held its position that we hijab-wearing players couldn’t be allowed on the court — despite more than 130,000 signatures on a petition calling for the ban to be overturned, countless articles and videos criticizing the discriminatory rule, and letters written directly to its president. FIFA, the global soccer federation, had already changed its hijab rules in 2012, opening up play to millions of women and girls. FIBA eventually made a two-year provision to the rule, but with major hurdles.

I didn’t understand why removing the rule was so difficult. I have been swatted in the face by braids and ponytails, but for more than 10 years of playing, my hijab has never caused harm to me or any other players. The frustration built up, and at times, I was ready to surrender. However, in those moments, I received messages from Muslim girls aspiring to compete at the highest levels of basketball. Their words reminded me to push through.

I went from playing basketball every day to standing on podiums and stages in front of crowds of people. The microphone became my ball, the stage became my court, and the words I spoke became my stats. FIBA may have blocked my career, but it was not going to sideline Muslim women players forever.

Finally, after three lost seasons, help from human rights activists, countless interviews, and a letter of support from both male and female professional NBA and WNBA athletes, FIBA rescinded the rule in May and the change went into effect this week. In addition to Muslim women, Sikhs and Jews are now able to play in FIBA games while representing their faith.

Even though my career was prematurely and unfairly ended by FIBA’s headgear rule, I can proudly say I stood up for inclusion and helped change history. Without the patience I learned from basketball, prayer, and faith, I know that none of this would have been possible.

It’s time for Muslim women and girls to be accepted, welcomed and loved in all spaces and places. It’s important for everyone to know that this is all bigger than basketball.

Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir is a Muslim American basketball player and athletic director. The Life Without Basketball documentary film about Bilqis will be released in 2018. Watch the trailer here and follower her on Twitter here.

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Cristiano Ronaldo wins fifth Ballon d’Or to equal Lionel Messi

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Goal — Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo has won the 2017 Ballon d’Or.

It is the fifth time the Portugal international has won the prize, drawing him level with his great rival Lionel Messi for the most Ballons d’Or of all time.

Ronaldo scored 42 goals across all competitions during the 2016-17 season, leading Real Madrid to a La Liga and Champions League double.

The 32-year-old netted 25 times in La Liga last term and added 12 goals in the Champions League, including a brace in the final against Juventus.

“I’m very happy. To get this prize in Paris is a great experience, it’s marvelous,” Ronaldo told L’Equipe TV.

“It’s a great moment of my career. It’s something I wish I have every year. We had a marvelous year. I was the [top] goalscorer of the Champions League, so I want to thank my team-mates.
“They were important for me. And also thanks everybody who helped me to be in great form during the season.”

It’s the second straight year Ronaldo has won the award presented by France Football, and he was also named the Best FIFA Men’s Player of 2016-17 in October.

Ronaldo also took home the Ballon d’Or in 2008, 2013, and 2014.

FIFA formerly awarded the Ballon d’Or in conjunction with France Football, but the two entities split their prizes last year.

The Portugal star was joined in the top 30 by six of his Real Madrid team-mates: Karim Benzema (25th place), Toni Kroos (17th), Marcelo (16th), Isco (12th), Sergio Ramos (sixth) and Modric (fifth).

Ronaldo has picked up where he left off last season in this year’s Champions League, scoring in all six of Madrid’s group-stage matches – a feat that had never been accomplished before .

But he hasn’t matched that form in La Liga, netting just two times in 10 appearances thus far.

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Political Pundit Falsely Claims Colin Kaepernick Donated Money To Terrorists (Somalia Famine Relief)

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VIBE — On Friday (Dec. 1), “Fox & Friends” contributor Kevin Jackson shared his views on the award while downplaying Kaepernick’s legacy. The former NFL player was essentially isolated by the league in 2016 for taking a knee against police brutality, a moment that has later been repeated by supporters this year. As Salon points out, Kaepernick was also given the award for his deep-rooted relationship to social justice, but Jackson disagreed.

“Look, Kaepernick is no Ali,” he continued while calling the award a participation trophy. “And the idea that the left continue to want to sell this lie to America, that this man stands for something that supposedly is happening in this country that’s not, just shows you that the left will never give up on this narrative.”

He also accused the athlete of donating money to radical groups.

“Colin Kaepernick gives money to terrorists,” he said. “Look at the people he’s donated money to. These are “radicalists,” in many cases, ethnocentric racists black organizations and again, built on a lie. It would be different if we can really get behind this and feel like it was done in the spirit of the the guy getting a raw deal. Muhammad Ali got a raw deal. Colin Kaepernick did not get a raw deal.”

Kaepernick has donated to plenty of organizations such as the Coalition for the Homeless, Meals on Wheels, Somalia famine relief, NY groups Coalition for the Homeless, DREAM and many more detailed on his website. None have any ties to radical views or movements.

Lonnie Ali, Muhammad’s widow, presented Kaepernick with the award while praising his passion for social justice.

“I am proud to be able to present this to Colin for his passionate defense of social justice and civil rights for all people,” Ali said. “Like Muhammad, Colin is a man who stands on his convictions with confidence and courage, undaunted by the personal sacrifices he has had to make to have his message heard. And he has used his celebrity and philanthropy to the benefit of some of our most vulnerable community members.”

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The 2018 World Cup draw is set — Here is where all 32 teams are grouped

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The 2018 FIFA World Cup draw is here!

There 32 countries were divided into four “pot.” The top seeds were all placed in Pot 1 and were assigned to groups first. Those were followed by the teams in Pot 2 and so on, with the lowest seeded teams in Pot 4 grouped last. A handful of adjustments happened along the way to keep teams from the same region out of the same groups.
Here are the four pots that determined the draw, based on the FIFA world rankings in October:
Pot 1: Russia, Germany, Brazil, Portugal, Argentina, Belgium, Poland, France
Pot 2: Spain, Peru, Switzerland, England, Colombia, Mexico, Uruguay, Croatia
Pot 3: Denmark, Iceland, Costa Rica, Sweden, Tunisia, Egypt, Senegal, Iran
Pot 4: Serbia, Nigeria, Australia, Japan, Morocco, Panama, South Korea and Saudi Arabia
Here are the groups:

GROUP A — Russia is the top seed
A1 — RUSSIA
A2 — SAUDI ARABIA
A3 — EGYPT
A4 — URUGUAY

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GROUP B — Portugal is the top seed
B1 — PORTUGAL
B2 — SPAIN
B3 — MOROCCO
B4 — IRAN

GROUP C — France is the top seed
C1 — FRANCE
C2 — AUSTRALIA
C3 — PERU
C4 — DENMARK

GROUP D — Argentina is the top seed
D1 — ARGENTINA
D2 — ICELAND
D3 — CROATIA
D4 — NIGERIA

GROUP E — BRAZIL is the top seed
E1 — BRAZIL
E2 — SWITZERLAND
E3 — COSTA RICA
E4 — SERBIA

GROUP F — GERMANY is the top seed
F1 — GERMANY
F2 — MEXICO
F3 — SWEDEN
F4 — SOUTH KOREA

GROUP G — BELGIUM is the top seed
G1 — BELGIUM
G2 — PANAMA
G3 — TUNISIA
G4 — ENGLAND
GROUP H — POLAND is the top seed
H1 — POLAND
H2 — SENEGAL
H3 — COLOMBIA
H4 — JAPAN

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