Olympics: CAS Rejects Ogwumike, Williams’ Bid To Represent Nigeria

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Nneka Ogwumike and Elizabeth Williams will have to wait another three years before actualising their dream of changing their international allegiance from the United States to Nigeria, the Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS) has ruled.

The two Nigerians, who had already played for the United States, applied to the world basketball governing body, FIBA, to change their allegiance to their motherland beginning with the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, which begins on Friday.

“FIBA acknowledges today’s decision of the Court Arbitration of Sport to reject the request for provisional measures filed by Nnemkadi Chinwe Ogwumike and Elizabeth Olatayo Williams,”  FIBA said in a statement.

“The players had requested that the CAS provisionally accepts the change of their national status from USA to Nigeria.”

“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,” FIBA added.

“The list of players for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games submitted by the Nigeria Basketball Federation to the Nigeria Olympic Committee and to FIBA does not include these two players.”

Ogwumike and Williams were in Nigeria’s provisional squad for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, but were omitted from the final 12-man squad announced by Coach Otis Hughley on Monday. The duo played for the United States during the qualifiers to the Olympics before deciding to switch to Nigeria.

Both have Nigerian passports but players are not usually allowed to switch international allegiances after they turn 17. However, they requested an ‘exceptional change’ to their national status under an International Basketball Federation (FIBA) rule, which permits switches if it is in the interest of developing the sport.

Ogwumike, 30, plays for Los Angeles Sparks, while 28-year-old centre Williams plays for Atlanta Dream. Ogwumike, the WNBA champion and MVP in 2016, has won two World Cups and a Summer Universiade title with the US. Williams has three gold medals with the US from youth World Championships.

The Nigerian Basketball Federation (NBBF) had claimed that “players of African descent are approved to play for other countries constantly but the reverse is not the case.”

“We do tacitly believe that there are undercurrents and motivation for such a decision which is repugnant to natural justice, equity and good conscience.”

Nigeria’s first match at Tokyo 2020 is against the US on July 27. Hosts Japan and France are the other teams in their group.

 

Chidi Nwoke/The Guardian.

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