The presence of Middle Eastern females in athletics is increasingly recognized. In its latest market expansion, Nike announced the Nike Pro Hijab, a new sportswear product geared toward female Muslim athletes. The hijab will be released next spring, according to Vogue Arabia.
The Pro Hijab is made of thin material, and has tiny holes to make it breathable for the athletes’ active lifestyles, CNN reported.
Students at John Brown University responded to Nike’s Pro Hijab. Taylor Genser, sophomore elementary education major, said she was excited to hear that Nike is going to be more inclusive in their products.
“I think that to have a company that is so in the public eye doing something to promote equality – it’s just really encouraging to see that,” Genser said. “I think it’s cool [because Nike is] a brand that a lot of athletic people take pride in. Now people can have head coverings that have the Nike logo on them. They can take pride in owning that, and it’s not just something that they have to have.”
Zahra Lari, the first international figure skater from the United Arab Emirates announced on instagram that she is “super excited” to be part of the Nike Pro Hijab campaign.
“People may think or tell you that you can’t do certain things, but I’m going to show them you absolutely can. I am covered, I am Muslim, I am from a desert country, and I’m doing a winter sport,” Lari said, according to Vogue Arabia.
Nike+ Run Club Coach Manal Rostom spoke to Vogue Arabia about the barrier-breaking implications of the Nike Pro Hijab.
“There are a lot of…women and girls who are breaking barriers. For me growing up, though, I never had these women to look up to. I had to break these barriers for myself,” Rostom said, according to Vogue Arabia.
Colleen Dyer, junior history major, said she is somewhat neutral on the issue, but that she does see how encouraging it is.
“I don’t have a problem with it, but I’m not like, ‘wow, bless!’,”Dryer said.
Dryer continued by stating “I agree that for [muslim women] to have an opportunity to participate in activities they couldn’t previously be a part of because of their religion is encouraging,” Dyer said.
Elizabeth Jones, sophomore music major, agreed that Nike’s inclusion is encouraging, but said she had other concerns.
“I think it’s great, but there are other Muslim owned and operated companies that have been producing these for a few years,” Jones said. “While it’s great that it’s being done by such a big company, it would be better to support the small businesses.”
Lari left Vogue Arabia with a final statement regarding what the release of the Nike Pro Hijab means to women like her.
“People should know that Emirati athletes are strong,” Lari told Vogue Arabia. “We’re confident women who know what we want to do, and we work very hard to accomplish what needs to be accomplished.”