The National Collegiate Athletic Association has agreed to offer a waiver to a Muslim student wrestler who requested that he be permitted to compete during the 2014-2015 season with a beard, despite regulations barring facial hair in competition.
So long as Muhamed McBryde wears a face mask and a chin strap to cover his facial hair, the 17-year-old pre-med student at the University of Buffalo in New York will be allowed to keep his beard for the next academic season, the Huffington Post reported.
Muhamed McBryde's faith precludes him from having pictures taken as well. A headshot is not available on his team's website. (Image source: University of Buffalo)
McBryde, who says that shaving his beard or having photographs taken of himself violates his faith, would have willingly sat out for the season next year had he not been granted the exemption. He had already missed 20 dual matches after learning about the regulation.
Not long after learning about the rule, McBryde's family approached the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Muslim civil rights group, and asked for help in getting a waiver so he could once again compete -- a request that was granted last month after an attorney for the group contacted the school, according to the Buffalo News.
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"We were just looking for reasonable accommodations for a practicing Muslim," Mustafa McBryde, the wrestler's father, told the outlet. "A lot of Muslims, we just bend to these sorts of things, primarily because we’re not aware of our rights."
Mustafa McBryde also noted that international wrestlers are permitted to have beards and that many people have competed in the Olympics while wearing them.
But National Collegiate Athletic Association Rule 1.13, which governs wrestling in U.S. colleges, does not currently permit facial hair at the university level. Its rules for wrestling read:
"Contestants shall not wear finger rings and/or jewelry, must be cleanshaven, with sideburns trimmed no lower than earlobe level and hair trimmed and well-groomed, and must be free of oils and/or greasy substances. Because of the body contact involved, this rule has been approved in the interests of health, sanitary and safety measures. The hair, in its natural state, shall not extend below the top of an ordinary shirt collar and on the sides shall not extend below earlobe level. A neatly trimmed mustache that does not extend below the line of the lower lip is permissible."
The waiver that was granted to McBryde is not permanent and must be filed on behalf of the university for each season he competes, the Buffalo News reported.
For now, though, McBryde's family and activists are content.
"It's great to see the NCAA respect individuals in their personal beliefs," Sadyia Khalique, director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in New York, told the Huffington Post.
(H/T: Huffington Post)
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