LAS VEGAS — Nneka Ogwumike and Elizabeth Williams won’t be playing for Nigeria in the Tokyo Olympics after the Court of Arbitration for Sport rejected their appeal.
The WNBA players had asked the CAS to grant them a provisional allowance and add them to the roster for the Tokyo Games until a hearing could occur. The pair had been notified last week by FIBA that their petition to play for the African nation had been denied because they played for the U.S. national program for too long.
“FIBA acknowledges today’s decision of the Court Arbitration of Sport (CAS) to reject the request for provisional measures,” the basketball organization posted on its website.
FIBA said that the pair were not on Nigeria’s roster submitted for the Tokyo Games.
Ogwumike and her sisters have dual citizenship with the United States and Nigeria, and they believed they should be eligible to represent Nigeria in Japan. The Ogwumikes’ parents, Peter and Ify, were both born in Nigeria and came to the United States before their daughters were born.
Nigeria’s coach, Otis Hughley Jr., felt that Williams and Nneka Ogwumike should have been allowed to play for the team. He put out a passionate plea after the squad lost to the U.S. on Sunday to let them compete. Williams played in that exhibition game. But Ogwumike and her sister Chiney didn’t; they were on the bench cheering on their teammates.
“Allow them the opportunity to help grow the game,” Hughley said. “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.”
Hughley said he was concerned that the reason for the denials by FIBA came from other countries that think they have a chance to medal.
“They didn’t anticipate us being in that position,” the coach said. “So, there’s some things going on that nobody sees and nobody talks about. It gets in the way of integrity. It’s gonna catch up with whoever’s doing that. It’s just dead wrong. I know FIBA is better than that. I’ve been part of them a long time; it’s a great organization.”
Chiney Ogwumike had been granted the ability to play with Nigeria as a naturalized player. She had asked the CAS to have that changed to giving her status as a Nigerian — the same as her sister Erica, who is also on the nation’s roster — since each country is only allowed one naturalized player.
CAS denied that appeal, as well.
No African nation has won a game in the Olympics since Nigeria went 1-5 in the 2004 Athens Games.
Nneka Ogwumike and Williams have been given consent by USA Basketball to play for Nigeria. Usually players who compete for the U.S. in major FIBA events after they turn 17 are not allowed to start playing for another country.
Ogwumike competed for the U.S. in the 2018 World Cup, during which the Americans beat Nigeria in the quarterfinals. She had hoped to make the U.S. roster for Tokyo, but she was left off the team when it was announced. She had been dealing with a knee injury sustained early last month.