Metro Detroit 'hijabi' featured in Adidas spot
The moment was short but powerful.
Wearing a dark hijab, or traditional head covering for Muslim women, Rahaf Khatib lifts a barbell near a camera and finishes a message to viewers more accustomed to admiring male athletes: “You can’t see us.”
The Metro Detroit native was featured in a short film Adidas unveiled online Thursday, in time for International Women’s Day, seeking equal media representation of women in sports.
The video is part of the global athletic apparel company’s She Breaks Barriers initiative. It also debuted the same day Adidas officials announced a partnership with Twitter and Intersport to livestream women’s high school volleyball and soccer games.
For Khatib, a marathon runner who lives in Farmington Hills and has attracted a mass following on social media through her fitness-focused pursuits, taking part was another major step.
“It speaks volumes in terms of how everything is shifting nowadays,” she said. “It helps us move forward, so to speak. It helps us to normalize the image of a Muslim woman.”
Khatib has long been challenging perceptions while running competitively as an “hijabi.”
The mother of three has appeared on the cover of "Women's Running” and become a “six-star finisher,” an honor Abbott World Marathon Majors gives racers who have competed in the Berlin, Chicago, New York City, Tokyo, Boston and London contests.
She also was a TEDx speaker in Oman and has raised money for brain tumor research.
Last year, Adidas reached out to her about providing input on a sports hijab prototype, which led to an invitation to appear in the video, she said.
Khatib traveled to California last month to film the clip, which also features soccer Olympian Becky Sauerbrunn; hurdler Keni Harrison; ESPN analyst Maria Taylor; and Women's National Basketball Association player Layshia Clarendon.
“We believe that through sport, we have the power to change lives. Produced for International Women’s Day, this video continues to push for equality in sport by improving the visibility of female athletes in media,” Adidas spokeswomen said in a statement. “She Breaks Barriers is about inspiring and enabling the next generation of strong, confident leaders. It’s about removing the barriers between women and sport, and providing them with the tools necessary to lift themselves and others up, on and off the court. Adidas has partnered with a host of Muslim women around the world, including Rahaf, to co-create the best sports performance hijab yet.”
By Friday, the video had been viewed more than 67,000 times on Twitter. The YouTube post notched nearly 207,000.
The response has been “overwhelming in a good way,” Khatib said. “People are so glad to see so many diverse women. Growing up in the ’80s and ’90s, I didn’t see anyone like me in such ads. It’s great. The tables are being shifted now for the better.”