Norwegian Handball Team Fined for … Wearing Too Much?

Norway Beach Handball team fined for wearing too much the same week as Paralympic sprinter Olivia Breen criticized for not wearing enough

This week in: which decade are we living in, again? Norway’s national women’s beach handball team was fined 150 euros per player for wearing spandex shorts instead of bikini bottoms. In the same week, a British Paralympian was told her shorts were ‘too short and inappropriate.’ Although female athletes train their entire lives for the chance at athletic glory, they’re once again forced to worry about their outfits. Will the scrutiny ever stop?

Norway’s handball federation’s disciplinary commission delivered a joint statement that said, “all efforts will be taken in order to further promote the sport. This includes the ideal presentation of the sport and, by that, includes the outfit of the players.”

In an effort to cover their bases before the tournament, Norway’s team gave advance warning to officials at the European Beach Handball Championship that the players would opt for wearing shorts rather than bikini bottoms during the bronze-medal game versus Spain on Sunday. 

Although the Norwegian team lost, they felt triumphant to draw attention to their team and sport. “We are overwhelmed by the attention and support from all over the world!” the team said. “We really hope this will result in a change of this nonsense rule!”

As we know, this sexism is anything but new. In 2011, women’s badminton created a rule that women must wear skirts or dresses on the court at the 2012 Olympics. Retired soccer player Briana Scurry recalls having to wear ‘hand me downs’ from the men’s team in the 1990s Olympics because the sponsors of the uniforms made them with only men’s teams in mind.

The Norwegian team wore shorts to protest the uniform, pointing out that women are required to wear bikini bottoms while diving all over the sand while men are required to wear shorts.

“Female athletes must wear bikini bottoms … with a close fit and cut on an upward angle toward the top of the leg,” according to the International Handball Federation rulebook. “The side width must be of a maximum of 10 centimeters.”

Alternatively, British Paralympic Sprinter Olivia Breen was criticized by a tournament judge for wearing shorts that were “too revealing.” 

“I have been wearing the same style spring briefs for many years and they are specifically designed for competing in. I will hopefully be wearing them in Tokyo,” Breen tweeted. “It made me question whether a male competitor would be similarly criticized.”

Ashley Allen / Getty Images

“I recognize that there needs to be regulations and guidelines in relation to competition kit but women should not be made to feel self-conscious about what they are wearing when competing but should feel comfortable and at ease,” she added.

Breen and the Norway Handball Team have gained enormous support via social media and news coverage. Norway’s Handball Federation posted their support of the team on Instagram, saying, “We are very proud of these girls who are at the European Championships in beach handball. They raised their voice and told us that enough is enough.”

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