When USA Basketball announced the 12-woman roster for the Tokyo Olympics, the one name missing that stunned everyone was Nneka Ogwumike. The Sparks star had been a leader for the USA women in recent years, including earning MVP honors at the Olympic qualifying tournament in 2020, but was left off the roster with the apparent reasoning being her knee injury that figured to keep her out until right around the start of USA Basketball camp.
However, others pointed to it as the latest evidence of the politics of USA hoops that had led to the likes of Candace Parker being left of the 2016 team that went to Rio (Parker even called it “bullsh*t” Nneka had been left off the roster), and promises being made but not kept for some of the country’s brightest young stars. Ogwumike joined her sisters, Erica and Chiney, in petitioning FIBA to be a part of the Nigerian Olympic squad after being left off the USA roster, hoping to get to fulfill her Olympic dream alongside both of her sisters.
On Wednesday night, just as the WNBA All-Star Game tipped off in Las Vegas between the All-Stars and Team USA, word emerged from ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne and Mechelle Voepel that Nneka’s petition had been denied by FIBA.
Former WNBA MVP Nneka Ogwumike was notified by FIBA that her petition to play for her native Nigeria in the upcoming Tokyo Olympics was denied due to “substantial involvement” of more than 10 years with Team USA, sources told ESPN on Wednesday.
Per the report, Ogwumike will look to appeal the decision to the Court of Arbitration in Sport, which could allow her either to play while awaiting a hearing or get an expedited decision that could allow her to play in the Olympics. Chiney was approved to play as a naturalized player, but that ruling also will be appealed as it allows for just one player per roster to have that status and could impact someone else on Nigeria’s squad — Erica Ogwumike was fully cleared to play for Nigeria with no restrictions or stipulations.
It’s unfortunate that FIBA decided this way, as it hinders one of the best players in the world from competing at the Olympics, even considering she’s played for Team USA a significant number of times. One would think the point of that rule is to keep players from abandoning their national squads in order to play for a different team, when in this case it’s the other way around. Ogwumike was left off the USA roster despite that experience and having played so much for them, and if there’s another avenue for her to be able to compete in the Olympics, FIBA should be looking to help facilitate that rather than denying it.