Five-time WNBA All Star and former league MVP Nneka Ogwumike hoped to represent her home country of Nigeria in this year’s Olympic Games. But, according to reports from ESPN on Wednesday, the basketball star’s petition to join the Nigerian roster has been denied by FIBA, citing “substantial involvement” of more than 10 years with Team USA.
For the most part, if a player has participated in a FIBA-sanctioned event after their 17th birthday, they are no longer allowed to participate in a FIBA event with a different team. But, according to further FIBA regulations, a player can be authorized to play for a different national team if his or her country of origin is experiencing an influx of basketball interest — placing an emphasis on the expansion of appeal for women’s basketball across the globe.
The last time Ogwumike played for Team USA was during the World Cup in 2018. After operating under the assumption that she would make the U.S. roster in 2021, she was snubbed yet again before this summer’s games. The Los Angeles Sparks star also failed to make the U.S. Olympic roster in 2012 and 2016.
Turning this disappointment into a blessing in disguise, she hoped to join her sisters, Chiney and Erica, on the Nigerian roster.
“It’s something I know my family would be very proud of. I’m hoping it will contribute to the growth we’re experiencing for Africa in basketball,” Nneka told ESPN before her petition was denied.
The basketball world took to Twitter to react to this news:
This is awful. Nneka Ogwumike got “substantially involved” under the understanding that she would be part of the Olympic team, then get snubbed from that team and isn’t allowed to get involved with another team despite having Nigerian citizenship.
Just awful. No one wins here. https://t.co/SCC05YTiKY
— Brady Klopfer (@BradyKlopferNBA) July 14, 2021
Heartbreaking news for Nneka Ogwumike. 😕 pic.twitter.com/h5bIJaZp5G
— theScore (@theScore) July 14, 2021
Feel so bad for @nnekaogwumike 💔
— AllThingsHoops (@All4Hoops) July 14, 2021
— Stanley T (@TseStanley23) July 15, 2021
Smh. She been getting played from every direction. And she’s more than deserving to be on team USA https://t.co/oorvNnKBF1
— Sir Chill Winnington (@Csaleo) July 15, 2021
So after Nneka was inexplicably left off Team USA for three consecutive Olympics, FIBA is blocking her from playing with her sisters on the Nigeria team BECAUSE of her “extensive involvement with Team USA”???
Man, that’s just sick. https://t.co/JNBdkZFwTN
— Jeremy C. Owens (@jowens510) July 14, 2021
1. She should be on team USA 2. It’s bizarre that they won’t let her suit up for Nigeria. She is literally one of the best players in the World and yet doesn’t have a home. Mind-boggling! https://t.co/KKEOsQicex
— Laurence Holmes (@LaurenceWHolmes) July 14, 2021
Bad. For. Basketball. https://t.co/I9hzvuHNbd
— Wubble Watch (@WubbleWatch) July 14, 2021
Ogwumike still isn’t giving up on the her Olympic dreams just yet though. According to ESPN, she’s exhausting all remaining options, including a possible application to the Court of Arbitration in Sport.
The Nigerian Basketball Federation has also filed an appeal to FIBA on behalf of Ogwumike and Atlanta Dream center Elizabeth Williams, who was also denied because of her previous involvement with Team USA.