Report: Nneka Ogwumike's Petition to Play for Nigeria in Tokyo Olympics Denied

Paul KasabianFeatured Columnist IIJuly 14, 2021

Los Angeles Sparks forward Nneka Ogwumike (30) talks to her teammates during a WNBA basketball game against the Dallas Wings Friday, May 14, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)
AP Photo/Ashley Landis

FIBA has denied Los Angeles Sparks forward and 2016 WNBA MVP Nneka Ogwumike's petition to play for Nigeria at the Tokyo Olympics, per ESPN's Ramona Shelburne and Mechelle Voepel.

Andreas Zagklis, FIBA's Secretary General, wrote in a letter to Ogwumike that the decision was based on "the substantial involvement of the Player with the USA national team over more than 10 years."

According to Shelburne and Voepel, Ogwumike is looking into other avenues that would allow her to play. One such option is an application to the Court of Arbitration in Sport.

As the ESPN duo noted, the Nigerian Basketball Federation appealed to FIBA on behalf of Ogwumike and Atlanta Dream center Elizabeth Williams, who was also denied for the same reason as the Sparks star.

"We do tacitly believe there are undercurrents and motivation for such a decision which is repugnant to natural justice, equity and good conscience," the Nigerian Basketball Federation wrote.

"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."

Ogwumike is a dual citizen of the United States and Nigeria. Per Shelburne and Voepel, the International Olympic Committee only mandates that an athlete be nationalized for their competing country.

In addition, the IOC states athletes can represent a different country three years after competing for another country.

Ogwumike's last participation for Team USA was at the 2018 World Cup, which ended on Sept. 30, 2018. She won a gold medal for Team USA then and also at the 2014 World Cup.

However, she has never been invited to play for Team USA on the Olympic stage. The ex-Stanford star is easily one of the most accomplished basketball players to fall in that category.

The 31-year-old's resume includes the aforementioned MVP award as well as a 2016 WNBA championship. The six-time All-Star has made four All-WNBA teams in addition to five WNBA All-Defensive teams.

She also won the 2012 Rookie of the Year award after the Sparks took her first overall in the WNBA draft.

In addition, Ogwumike took home the WNBA's Kim Perrot Sportsmanship Award twice.

This season, Ogwumike has been limited to five games due to a left knee sprain that ESPN's Alex Scarborough initially reported would keep her out four-to-six weeks from June 3. In five games, Ogwumike has averaged 16.4 points on 58.6 percent shooting and 7.0 rebounds.

As for the Olympics, Nigeria is scheduled to lead its tournament against Team USA on Tuesday, July 27.