TORONTO -- The Raptors say a new line of team-branded hijabs is part of an effort to be more inclusive to fans of all cultures.
The team's parent company, Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, unveiled the Nike Pro hijabs emblazoned with the team logo in a social media post Friday. The Raptors say they are the first NBA team to offer an athletic hijab for Muslim women.
MLSE senior marketing director Jerry Ferguson says the organization was inspired to create the hijabs by a local Muslim women's organization known as the Hijabi Ballers. The women regularly play basketball at a community court associated with the team.
Ferguson told The Canadian Press the Raptors organization wants to send a message of inclusion to its diverse fan base, which grew substantially during last season's run to the team's first NBA title.
"One of the things that we are very interested in is moving from saying we are just about inclusivity and accessibility, and finding ways to bring products and ideas to market that actually prove that," he said by phone.
The International Basketball Federation and FIFA lifted bans on head coverings in recent years.
The National Council of Canadian Muslims praised the Hijabi Ballers for spurring the Raptors to act. Mustafa Farooq, the council's executive director, acknowledged that the issue of hijabs in sports has proved divisive. Opponents have called them a symbol of oppression.
"It's hard for me to understand that," Farooq said. "One of the beautiful things about sports is that everyone can play. Highlighting that ... everyone should get a shot is such a beautiful thing to do, so obviously we thank the Raptors for taking this step."