Tiffany Mitchell: US basketball player slams Aussie league's 'racist' rule for braids

Tiffany Mitchell: US basketball player slams Aussie league's 'racist' rule for braids
Tiffany Mitchell, the Melbourne Boomers' import, dribbles the ball during the round two WNBL match against the Southside Flyers, on December 11, 2021, in Melbourne, Australia (Kelly Defina/Getty Images)

A US professional basketball player has accused Basketball Australia of racial discrimination after she was threatened with a ban if she did not tie her braids. Melbourne Boomers import, Tiffany Mitchell, alleged that she was told she wouldn't be able to play in the WNBA till her braids were tied up, or made into a bun. They apparently issued the warning notice to her under an archaic league rule that had been scrapped a long time ago.

In a scathing Instagram post, Mitchell wrote: “This post will be uncomfortable for some to read and inspiring for others to read. Throughout my first month here in Australia I had little to none problems. Until this past week I was met with a situation that was clear racial discrimination. I was approached about my hair, and that for the start of the regular season I wouldnt be able to play if I didnt tie my hair up or wear it in a bun. An email was also sent out informing coaches and refs to make sure the ‘rule’ was in place for ‘the players’ with braids.”


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She continued, “Now in I dont know how many years this league chooses to enforce this ‘fiba’ rule about the length of someones hair. Braids specifically, of course people with ‘free braids’ as they call it apparently its clear only the black people in this league has these type of braids. Ive played all around the world, in every top league at the highest level and my braids has never been an issue. When I approached Basketball Australia with the discomfort it caused me reading and hearing about this email they stood on the fact that it was a fiba rule they were told to enforce it, but later they reverted because it was actually a rule in fiba that wasnt even in place anymore.”


The 27-year-old also mentioned how the archaic rule affected her game. She noted, “You can clearly see in the second picture before my first game the pain I was still carrying because how are you enforcing a rule that isnt even a rule anymore, the target I felt I had on my back was undescribable but still played with all the disappoint I felt from Basketball Australia,” before adding: “I am completely thankful for my club as they stood behind my teammate and myself that had braids and they were very supportive. To combat Basketball Australia and the false ruling they put out we took a Knee during the anthem before the game. Did this change how I still felt inside about the entire situation, no. But it gave me a sense of comfort knowing that the ladies that I suit up with every night had my teammate and I backs.”

Mitchell’s social media post attracted a lot of attention with a person commenting below it, “Wow, I admire your strength and courage to go out there and play despite what happened. I can see the pain on your face. Like you said, it’s unfortunate the conversation had to be had but I’m hoping basketball Australia learns from this and I’m so proud of your team/teammates for having your back. Your braids are one of your trademarks about you and the hair flips lol.” Another one wrote, “Went to the game last night and you were incredible. Huge respect for you @tiffmitch25 love your passion.”


Meanwhile, Basketball Australia acknowledged it’s fault and issued a statement saying, “Basketball Australia makes an unreserved apology for any anguish and pain that was caused by this rule. The policy has been deemed discriminatory and inconsistent with Basketball Australia's Diversity and Inclusion framework by the WNBL Commission. It is also not enforced in either the WNBL, other leading professional women's leagues around the world or international competitions such as the Olympics and World Cup. To this end, the WNBL Commission has removed the policy, effective immediately.”

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