The Court of Arbitration for Sport(CAS) has denied the appeal by Nigeria duo Nneka Ogwumike of the Los Angeles Sparks and Elizabeth Williams of the Atlanta Dream to play for D’Tigress at the Tokyo Olympics.
FIBA had ruled the two WNBA players ineligible to play for Nigeria because they have previously played for the USA in FIBA events.
Ogwumike and Williams, hoping to exploit the FIBA eligibility guidelines which states that a player could potentially change national teams if it’s in the interest of developing the sport of basketball, had requested CAS to provisionally change their national status from USA to Nigeria but the players’ appeal was rejected by CAS.
A FIBA statement said: “Although both players had played for USA after the age of 17 and participated in the qualifying process to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games (in February 2020 and September 2019, respectively), they recently requested an exceptional change of their national status, which FIBA declined under the applicable rules.
“In any event, the players would have to wait for a three-year period since their last game with the USA to be eligible to play at the Olympics, as per Bye-law to Rule 41 of the Olympic Charter.”
Ogwumike, 31, had previously won gold in the 2014 and 2018 FIBA World Cups with the USA and was named 2020 FIBA Olympic qualifying tournament MVP but she’s never been selected to a US Olympic team.
She’s the eldest of three sisters and was hoping to play for Nigeria after she was left off the US team because she was nursing a knee sprain at the time the American team was announced.
Chiney Ogwumike, 29, who also plays for the WNBA’s Sparks and also has USA Basketball experience, was granted permission to play as a naturalized player for Nigeria.
However, Nneka Ogwumike couldn’t go that route because a roster can’t have more than one player that is a naturalized citizen, per FIBA rules.
The youngest sister, Erica Ogwumike, who played college basketball at Rice, is also on Nigeria’s roster. In 2020, she was drafted by the WNBA’s New York Liberty and then subsequently traded to the Minnesota Lynx. She never played in an WNBA game and chose to attend medical school.
The sisters’ parents were born in Nigeria and the sisters have dual citizenship.
Williams, whose parents grew up in Nigeria, was born in England and moved to the US in 1996.