Nneka Ogwumike’s petition to play for Nigeria denied by FIBA
Former WNBA MVP Nneka Ogwumike has been informed by FIBA that her application to play for her native Nigeria at the upcoming Tokyo Olympics has been rejected due to “substantial involvement” of over 10 years with Team USA, sources told ESPN on Wednesday.
Ogwumike is exploring all of his options, including a possible application to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, sources said. The court could expedite a full hearing if both parties agree. FIBA could also allow Ogwumike to participate until there is a hearing.
The Nigerian Basketball Federation filed an appeal with FIBA on behalf of Ogwumike and Elizabeth Williams, the Atlanta Dream center, which was also dismissed due to his previous involvement with Team USA. The Federation wrote that Ogwumike and Williams were “two of the best players who would have made our team one of the strongest at the Games”.
The letter, which was obtained by ESPN, said: “We tacitly believe that there are undercurrents and motivation for such a decision that runs counter to natural justice, fairness and justice. good conscience. It is also rightly discriminatory because players of African descent are approved to constantly play for other countries, but the reverse is not the case. “
Each player has been licensed by USA Basketball to play for Nigeria, has paid an administrative fee of $ 10,000 to do so and holds a Nigerian passport.
As a general rule, if players have competed for the United States in FIBA sanctioned events after reaching their 17th birthday, they are not allowed to play for another country in a FIBA event. However, in accordance with FIBA rules on player eligibility, the general secretary of the organization may authorize a player to compete for the national team of his home country if it is in the interest of development. basketball in this country.
One of the pillars of FIBA today is the growth of women’s basketball around the world.
IOC rules only require that an athlete be nationalized by the country for which he is competing. They can compete for a different country three years after competing for their previous country.
Nneka Ogwumike last competed internationally for the United States three years ago at the 2018 World Cup.
Ogwumike had sought to play for Nigeria with his two sisters, Chiney and Erica, previously telling ESPN: “This is something that I know my family would be very proud of. I hope it contributes to the growth we are experiencing. for Africa in basketball. “
Chiney Ogwumike, a former No. 1 overall team who now plays with her older sister for the Los Angeles Sparks, has been approved to play for Nigeria as a naturalized player, a condition that could affect the rest of the Nigerian roster as only one player can do it. have this status. She is also required to pay 5,000 Swiss francs (approximately $ 5,468).
Sources said Chiney Ogwumike is also expected to appeal FIBA’s decision on his status.
Erica Ogwumike was allowed to play for Nigeria unconditionally, essentially giving the three Ogwumike sisters three different statuses by FIBA.
The Ogwumikes’ parents, Peter and Ify, were both born in Nigeria and immigrated to the United States, where their daughters were born. The Ogwumike sisters have dual citizenship with the United States and Nigeria.
The Ogwumikes filmed and developed a documentary about their experiences playing together for the Nigerian national team, sources said.
In letters to Ogwumike and Williams, FIBA General Secretary Andreas Zagklis explained the reason for the denial of their petitions due to “the player’s substantial involvement with the United States national team for more than ten years”.
Nneka, 31, was a long-time member of the United States senior national team, winning gold medals with the United States team in 2014 and 2018 at the FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup. But she was excluded from the United States’ list for the Tokyo Games, which were announced on June 21, surprising many and causing some controversy. She is the only MVP in WNBA history not to make an Olympic squad, as she was also controversially dropped in 2012 and 2016.
“It was more of an injury than a shock, because I had been through it before,” Nneka previously told ESPN. “But there are decisions made in this life that you can’t control. I allowed myself to feel the pain, but by the way, I decided, ‘I’m going to try to take matters into my own hands. “
Williams played collegially for Duke; Elizabeth Balogun, a senior Blue Devil, who transferred from Louisville, is also on the list, as is another former Blue Devil, Oderah Chidom.
In fact, all of the players on Nigeria’s provisional roster have played collegially in the United States, including Adaora Elonu, who won a national championship with Texas A&M in 2011.
“The last few years I’ve had the experience of playing against the Nigeria team and I’ve seen the rise,” Nneka previously told ESPN. “It fills me with pride.”