Nigerian-American Women’s Basketball player Nneka Ogwumike’s petition to play for Nigeria in the upcoming Tokyo Olympics, has been denied due to “substantial involvement” of more than 10 years with team USA, sources.
After been omitted by team USA from the Tokyo 2020 roster, Ogwumike explored all her options, including a possible application to the Court of Arbitration in Sport, sources said. The court could expedite a full hearing if both sides agree. FIBA could also allow Ogwumike to participate until there is a hearing.
The Nigerian Basketball Federation filed an appeal to FIBA on behalf of Ogwumike and Elizabeth Williams, the Atlanta Dream center who was also denied because of previous involvement with Team USA. The Federation wrote that Ogwumike and Williams were “two of the top players that would have made our team one of the strongest at the Games.”
The letter, which was obtained by ESPN, stated: “We do tacitly believe there are undercurrents and motivation for such a decision which is repugnant to natural justice, equity and good conscience. It is also out rightly discriminatory because players of African descent are approved to play for other countries constantly but the reverse is not the case.”
Each player was given consent by USA Basketball to play for Nigeria, paid an administrative fee of $10,000 to do so and holds a Nigerian passport.
Generally, if players have competed for the United States in FIBA-sanctioned events after having reached their 17th birthday, they are not allowed to play for another country in a FIBA event. However, according to FIBA’s regulations on player eligibility, the organization’s secretary general may authorize a player to compete for the national team of his or her country of origin if this is in the interest of the growth of basketball in that country.
One of FIBA’s pillars of emphasis currently is the growth of women’s basketball worldwide.
The IOC rules only require an athlete to be nationalized by the country they’re competing for. They can compete for a different country three years after they competed for their previous country.
Nneka Ogwumike last competed internationally for the United States three years ago in the 2018 World Cup.
Ogwumike had sought to play for Nigeria with her two sisters, Chiney and Erica, previously saying “It’s something I know my family would be very proud of. I’m hoping it will contribute to the growth we’re experiencing