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Nneka Ogwumike, Elizabeth Williams Won't Play for Nigeria After Appeals Denied

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVJuly 20, 2021

Cooper Neill/NBAE via Getty Images

A last-ditch effort to get WNBA star Nneka Ogwumike and Elizabeth Williams declared eligible for the Nigeria national team was unsuccessful.

FIBA announced Monday the Court of Arbitration for Sport rejected an appeal by Ogwumike and Williams to play for Nigeria at the Summer Olympics in Tokyo. The organization added that neither player was listed on Nigeria's Olympic roster.

Ogwumike and Williams have represented the United States at the international level.

The former earned two gold medals in the FIBA Women's Basketball World Cup in 2014 and 2018. The absence of Olympic gold is one of the glaring omissions in an otherwise Hall of Fame-worthy resume. 

That's why many were surprised when Ogwumike was left off the Team USA squad for the Olympics.

USA Basketball pointed to the 31-year-old's left knee sprain as the reason for her exclusion, but Diana Taurasi was included despite missing the bulk of the 2021 WNBA season with a fractured sternum. The Phoenix Mercury star has since picked up a minor hip injury.

Candace Parker, who has had her own issues with Team USA, called the situation "bulls--t" and said politics stymied her former Los Angeles Sparks teammate:

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Chris Williamson @CWilliamson44

Candace Parker shared her candid thoughts about Nneka being snubbed by Team USA 😳😳 via <a href="https://twitter.com/DougFeinberg?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@DougFeinberg</a> <a href="https://t.co/WZvvb9mrhx">pic.twitter.com/WZvvb9mrhx</a>

The Nigerian Basketball Federation announced July 6 it had listed Nneka and Chiney Ogwumike on its 15-player provisional Olympic roster. Williams had taken part in a January training camp.

Nigeria coach Otis Hughley Jr. thought having Ogwumike and Williams represent the country would make a positive impact on the domestic basketball landscape.

"Allow them the opportunity to help grow the game," he said, per the Associated Press' Doug Feinberg. "That continent would just be turned on its head for basketball. In a good way. You have no idea how many lives would be impacted and changed for the ages."

Feinberg noted USA Basketball signed off on the players' switching their international allegiance to Nigeria.

However, FIBA seemed to indicate Ogwumike and Williams would've been prohibited from making the trip to Tokyo even if the CAS had approved their appeal. The association noted they both represented the U.S. in Olympic qualifying within the three-year period a player must wait to be eligible to play for another country in the Summer Games.

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