Nneka Ogwumike's path to the Olympics has again been denied.
The former WNBA MVP's petition to play for her native Nigeria at the Olympics in Tokyo was rejected by FIBA due to her past "substantial involvement" with Team USA, according to ESPN's Ramona Shelburne and Mechelle Voepel.
A request from Atlanta Dream center Elizabeth Williams to play for Nigeria has also reportedly been denied.
The Nigerian Basketball Federation has reportedly filed an appeal of the decision on behalf of Ogwumike and Williams, while Ogwumike herself is reportedly considering applying for her case to be heard before the Court of Arbitration in Sport, which could grant an expedited hearing with the Olympics only 12 days away.
Nigeria did not hold back in a letter to FIBA requesting the appeal.
The letter, which was obtained by ESPN, stated: "We do tacitly believe there are undercurrents and motivation for such a decision which is repugnant to natural justice, equity and good conscience. 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."
Players typically aren't allowed to compete for other countries after playing for the United States in FIBA events after their 17th birthday, but FIBA's secretary general is allowed to authorize a player to compete for the national team of their country of origin if it's "in the interest of the growth of basketball in that country," per ESPN.
Nneka Ogwumike wanted to play with her sisters
Ogwumike suiting up for Nigeria would have been a nice resolution for an inexplicable situation.
The Los Angeles Sparks star being left off Team USA's Olympic roster wasn't just a snub; it was arguably the biggest snub in Team USA's history. Both her Sparks coach and a fellow WNBA MVP were openly livid. Ogwumike remains the only WNBA MVP to have never made an Olympic roster, as she also missed out on the 2012 and 2016 Games.
A knee sprain in June was cited for the decision, though even in that case, Team USA coach Dawn Staley admitted Ogwumike would likely be healthy in time for the Olympics while also naming Diana Taurasi, currently out with a fractured sternum, to the team.
Without a roster spot on Team USA, Ogwumike decided to join her sisters, Chiney and Erica, on Team Nigeria and was soon added to the team's provisional roster. The Ogwumikes' parents were born in Nigeria and immigrated to the United States.
Each sister holds dual citizenship in the U.S. and Nigeria, and Nneka also had consent from USA Basketball to play for the other team. ESPN notes that the three sisters all have different statuses in FIBA's eyes, as Erica was unconditionally approved to join the team, while Chiney was granted approval as a naturalized player, a condition only one player on the roster may receive.
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