Basketball

FIBA denies appeal from WNBA stars to play for Nigeria

Nneka Ogwumike of the Los Angeles Sparks and Elizabeth Williams of the Atlanta Dream won’t be able to play for Nigeria in the Tokyo Olympics after the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) denied their appeal.

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Ogwumike, 31, is the eldest of three sisters who was hoping to play for Nigeria at the Olympics after she was left off the US team due to a knee sprain when the American team was announced prior to the preparations for the Olympics.

Nneka Ogwumike, Elizabeth Williams won't play for Nigeria women's  basketball at Tokyo Games after appeal rejected

Chiney Ogwumike, 29, of WNBA’s Sparks also has USA Basketball experience, was granted permission to play as a naturalized player for Nigeria. However, she couldn’t go that route because a roster can’t have more than one player that is a naturalized citizen.

FIBA, the world governing body for basketball, ruled that the two WNBA players could not suit up for Nigeria, as they have previously played for the US in FIBA events. Ogwumike and Williams requested CAS to provisionally change their national status from the USA to Nigeria.

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The players filed the appeal because FIBA eligibility guidelines state a player could potentially change national teams if it’s in the interest of developing the sport of basketball. 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.”

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“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, ” the statement read.

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