The Philadelphia 76ers recently held their second annual Sikh Heritage Night on Nov. 22. This year, the NBA honored Sapreet Kaur of the non-profit organization Sikh Coalition. The night of Sikh traditions included a turban tying and educational event on the concourse, performances by the dance team Top Naach, a post-game shootaround on the 76ers court and tons of gear giveaways.
Top Naach paid tribute to Allen Iverson with some intense bhangra, a folk dance form that originates in the home of Sikhism, Punjab, India.
In times of divisiveness, it is inspiring to see how the NBA celebrates diversity by bringing awareness to the Sikh heritage. Basketball teams have been hosting Sikh Heritage Night since the Sacramento Kings hosted their first “Kaurs Singhs and Kings” night in 2014. The initial event was even held on April 13th to commemorate the birth anniversary of Sikhism. They teamed with the local Sikh community for events and had pre-game and halftime performances of Punjabi folk dances and music.
K3 International is behind the event. Their “Kaurs Singhs and ….” campaign works with sports franchises across North America to bring awareness of the rich Sikh heritage and to address hate crimes and racism. K3 International has been celebrating South Asian cultures in the mainstream for over 3 decades. Today, the tradition has expanded to many teams across the nation from “Kaurs Singhs and Clippers” in Los Angeles to “Kaurs Sings and Buccaneers” in Tampa Bay.
NHL’s San Jose Sharks joined in earlier this year. They hosted a Sikh Heritage Night with the local Sikh community when they battled the Vancouver Canucks. The “Kaurs Singhs and …” team has not only performed in America but in Canada, as well. With new teams joining the cause each year, Sikh Heritage Night is becoming a regular occurrence.
Here what’s you can expect from Sikh Heritage Nights: a Sikh singer will perform the national anthem, there are pre-game and half-time shows filled with traditional Punjabi dances and music, and sometimes, a select number of Sikh fans are granted the opportunity to watch teams practice before the game. They collaborate with the local Sikh community to find unique ways to honor the traditions of Sikhs while educating the audience like the turban tying even the 76ers held.
These events not only excite the Sikh fans but it helps people of all ethnicity appreciate the beauty of Sikh heritage. Since the tragic events of 9-11, Sikhs have been continuously targeted for their appearance in hate crimes and they’re not always represented appropriately in the media. This tradition of a Sikh Heritage Night allows the audience to be enlightened by the beauty, simplicity and the peacefulness of the religion and culture.