Nneka Ogwumike and Elizabeth Williams have lost their bid to play for Nigeria at the Tokyo Olympics after the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) rejected their appeal.
Both players had requested CAS to grant them a provisional allowance and add them to the roster for the Tokyo Games until a hearing could occur, USA Today reports.
The move came after the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) barred them from representing Nigeria at the Games. Specifically, FIBA based its decision on the grounds that they had played for the US 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 two sisters have dual citizenship with the United States and Nigeria. Therefore, they believed they should eligible to represent Nigeria in Japan. The Ogwumikes’ parents, Peter and Ify, were both born in Nigeria. They came to the United States before their daughters were born.
Meanwhile, Nigeria’s female basketball team coach, Otis Hughley Jr., was distraught at the decision by CAS; adding that he felt that they should have been allowed to play.
He put out a passionate plea after the team lost to the U.S. on Sunday to let the them to play. 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.”
Equally important, 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.
But CAS denied that appeal.
Nneka Ogwumike competed for the United States in the 2018 World Cup. Nigeria had lost to the US in the quarterfinals of that competition. She had hoped to make the US roster for Tokyo.
However, she was left off the team when it was announced. She had been dealing with a knee injury sustained early last month.