AP Photo/Ashley Landis
Los Angeles Sparks forward Nneka Ogwumike and Atlanta Dream center Elizabeth Williams are appealing FIBA’s decisions to reject their transfer requests to play for the Nigerian women’s national basketball team, per ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne.
In addition, Sparks forward Chiney Ogwumike, who was cleared to play for Nigeria as a naturalized citizen, is making the case that her status should be changed to full citizenship.
If FIBA denies the appeals, the trio plans to appeal their cases to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne and Mechelle Voepel reported Wednesday that FIBA’s decision on Nneka Ogwumike and Williams was based on their previous involvement with Team USA.
In regards to Nneka Ogwumike in particular, FIBA Secretary General Andreas Zagklis stated that the decision was based off “the substantial involvement of the Player with the USA national team over more than ten years.”
Chiney Ogwumike is appealing her status as only one naturalized citizen can take part on a team’s roster, per Shelburne. If she receives full citizenship status, that naturalized citizen spot could open for someone else.
As Shelburne wrote, the appeal claims that Zagklis should have considered Article 3-22 of the FIBA Internal Regulations when considering their requests, namely that their inclusions would be “in the interest of the development of basketball” in Nigeria.
“Unequivocally, this is the case for a country currently ranked 17th in the FIBA World Rankings,” the appeal states.
“A strong finish by the Nigeria women’s basketball team at the Olympic Games would undoubtedly be in the interest of the development of basketball in Nigeria.”
The Ogwumike sisters are dual citizens of the United States and Nigeria, and the appeal notes:
“They are Nigerian. They have family and friends in Nigeria. Their parents are Nigerian. They are just as much at home in Nigeria as they are when they are in the USA…and would be invaluable assets to Team Nigeria, and would help grow the sport of basketball in Nigeria for years to come.”
Nneka Ogwumike also spoke with ESPN about the decision previously, per Shelburne and Voepel: “It was more of a hurt than a shock, because I had experienced it before. But there are decisions made in this life that you can’t control. I allowed myself to feel the hurt, but moving on, I decided, ‘I’m going to try to put matters in my own hands.'”
Nneka Ogwumike has played for the Sparks since 2012, winning the 2016 WNBA MVP and 2016 WNBA title. She also won gold for Team USA at the 2014 and 2018 World Cups.
Chiney Ogwumike is a two-time WNBA All-Star who won the league’s 2014 Rookie of the Year Award. She also works as a full-time basketball analyst for ESPN and co-hosts an ESPN Radio show.
Williams made the WNBA All-Star team in 2017. The No. 4 overall pick in the 2015 WNBA draft is in the middle of her season in Atlanta after starting her career with the Connecticut Sun.
The deadline for Olympic teams to submit their final rosters is Sunday, per Shelburne. Nigeria is set to begin its tournament with a matchup against Team USA on Tuesday, July 27.