Nike Inc., a popular athletic wear brand, recently addressed an industry-wide problem that many people did not even know existed. The sportswear previously produced and sold by the Nike brand, and many others, did not provide options for female Muslim athletes who wear hijabs.
“In an upcoming line of workout clothes for women, Nike is introducing a performance hijab to better serve Muslim female athletes—the Nike Pro Hijab, which is scheduled for release next year,” USA Today reported.
As a leading brand for both recreational and professional athletes, Nike is long overdue in setting this standard, but such action is commendable nonetheless. Many Muslim athletes struggle to compete and to perform due to the lack of athletic clothing available that accommodates their religious beliefs and practices.
Nike claims that this product release was “the result of an ongoing cultural shift that has seen more women than ever embracing sport,” according to USA Today. They explained that the “movement first permeated international consciousness in 2012, when a hijab runner took the global stage in London.”
Professional Muslim athletes—specifically runner Sarah Attar and weightlifter Amna Al Haddad—inspired the product.
In addition, The New York Times reports that many Muslim athletes—such as figure skater Zahra Lari and runner Manal Rostom—tested Nike’s hijab throughout the stages of the product’s development. Furthermore, after the launch of the Nike Pro Hijab many Muslim professional athletes have stepped forward and expressed their support.
Nike did a tremendous job in teaming up with athletes who were affected by the lack of diverse athletic clothing. This collaboration not only allowed Nike to make a political statement, but also ensured that the company’s clothing products were as accommodating and successful as possible.
While Nike launching the Pro Hijab is a positive step for gender and athletic equality, its delayed arrival is disappointing. The struggle of Muslim female athletes was not given the attention it deserved over the past few years, as highlighted by the product’s elongated timeline.
It is difficult for some individuals to imagine something as seemingly meaningless as athletic clothing as an important issue, but that’s exactly why Nike needed to make a statement. Muslim women have been discriminated on multiple fronts and offering the proper athletic clothing for these women will finally allow them to fully participate in the sports they love.
To many, engaging in athletic activities in high school gym classes, on sports teams and with friends has been second nature, but this has not been the case for some female Muslims. Nike’s product will not only benefit professional athletes, but it will also benefit women and girls across the world who wish to participate in sports while wearing a hijab.
Despite Nike’s forward-thinking attitude and desire to accommodate all athletes, the brand has faced harsh criticism after the Pro Hijab’s release. The Independent reports that social media posts highlight criticism of the brand, while customers claim that they will never purchase Nike products again; some suggesting that Nike is supporting the oppression of women through selling the Pro Hijab.
“It is a recent phenomenon where more women have expressed a need for it and more professional athletes have fought for rights to compete with a headscarf, and have an equal playing field,” Haddad responded in light of this disapproval. “We made it big in the news; we couldn’t be ignored.”
Nike’s action to represent female Muslim athletes will give attention to the many issues these individuals face. Nike has a major influence in not only the athletic industry, but also in the world, as their products are widely sold and represented. The launch of the Nike Pro Hijab is a major step in creating a safe and equal place for all individuals to practice sports and to perform at the professional level.u