Update: Professional female handball players are no longer required to wear skimpy bikinis. The International Handball Federation has updated its regulations, and they now allow women to wear bike shorts and tank tops if they wish, reports the Guardian. The move comes after a high-profile protest by Norway's beach handball team over the summer, one that gained lots of international support. Our original file from Aug. 15 follows:
After a high-profile rebellion by the women on Norway's beach handball team, it appears that the rules about women's uniforms will change. The players objected to wearing bikini bottoms during a European competition last month and donned shorts instead, thus earning the team a fine of about $1,800 for "improper clothing." Now, amid criticism of the penalty from other teams, as well as the singer Pink, the New York Times reports that the sport's governing body is about to budge. New rules on uniforms are "very likely" to be enacted, says Hassan Moustafa, president of the International Handball Federation. The Guardian notes that at least seven women's sports associations around the world have called for the resignation of Moustafa, as well as the head of the sport's European federation, over the controversy.
"This is a blatantly sexist custom that needs to be eliminated," says Luisa Rizzitelli of Assist, an Italian group that advocates for female athletes. Critics have frequently pointed out that men who play the sport are allowed to wear shorts in international competition. The Times story calls attention to a situation in American Samoa, where girls ages 15 to 17 won a regional championship, then learned from the IHF they'd have to wear bikini bottoms to advance to the next level of play. "I first had to get permission from the parents," their male coach tells the newspaper. The girls and their families reluctantly agreed to the rule, but the young players were later embarrassed when photos emerged of the competition. "It doesn't seem right that the men can wear shorts and a jersey and the women must wear a bikini and sports bra," says the coach. (More handball stories.)