USA Basketball announced a loaded women's roster for the upcoming Tokyo Olympics on Monday. But one omission is drawing some heat.
Los Angeles Sparks forward Nneka Ogwumike missed the cut — again. The six-time WNBA All-Star and 2016 league MVP has been a regular for Team USA, playing in 59 international games including gold medal runs in the 2014 and 2018 FIBA World Cups.
But she's never played in the Olympics. She didn't make the 2016 Team USA roster in the same year she was named WNBA MVP. And she won't play in Tokyo next month despite her regular presence with Team USA since 2017.
Team USA head coach Dawn Staley addressed Ogwumike's omission when the teams were announced, citing her health as a concern. Ogwumike suffered a knee sprain on June 1 and was given a 4-to-6-week timeline for a return to play. She remains sidelined three weeks into that timeline.
“Breaks my heart that Nneka isn’t on this team,” Staley said, per the San Jose Mercury News. “Having to make a decision today, if we had to make a decision a month from now, I’m sure she’d be healthy. This was one of the things she wanted to do.”
Nneka Ogwumike expected to be healthy for Olympics tip-off
Team USA is scheduled to play its first game in Tokyo on July 27. Ogwumike's timeline would have her ready to play by then.
Elena Delle Donne, the 2019 WNBA MVP, is another high-profile omission dealing with injury. But her return to basketball after back surgery remains unclear with a timeline expected to extend into August at the earliest.
Another player dealing with injury who did make the cut is Diana Taurasi, an Olympics mainstay. The Phoenix Mercury announced on May 25 that Taurasi suffered a fractured sternum and was expected to miss four weeks. The four-time Olympic gold medalist has yet to return to play, but it appears that Team USA is satisfied that her injury status will allow her to compete. She told reporters on a video call Monday that she's "feeling much better."
Chiney Ogwumike on her sister: 'It just doesn't feel right'
Ogwumike did not immediately address her omission from the team on Monday. But her younger sister and Sparks teammate Chiney Ogwumike did on social media. She's not pleased.
✔️WNBA MVP & Champion in 2016 (last Olympic year)
✔️4x WNBA All-Defensive Team
✔️2x FIBA World Cup Gold Medalist
✔️ No. 1 pick & ROY
✔️oh, and she is one of few who went to every Team USA camp the last 5 years pic.twitter.com/iEzDduj4Kj
— Chiney Ogwumike (@chiney) June 21, 2021
"Someone great is ALWAYS going to get snubbed from Team USA,” Chiney wrote. “‘Bad timing.’ ‘Too much talent.’ With so many amazing players, it comes with the territory.
“But to be told (1) to wait your turn and (2) you are doing everything right — including leading Team USA in scoring last year & winning MVP of the most recent Olympic Qualifying Tournament — and (3) you are going above and beyond in pursuit of this dream … it just doesn’t feel right.”
Chiney also appeared to reference Team USA's treatment of now five-time Olympian Taurasi and her placement on the roster while dealing with injury. She didn't mention Taurasi by name, but wondered why her sister hasn't receive the same treatment from Team USA that "other stars" have.
"Just wish that the process operated with the same grace that is has delivered OTHER stars … the grace that she bestows every person she’s (sic) meets," Chiney continued. "But instead, this is the 2nd time that my family has been heartbroken for her."
Chiney wasn't the only person questioning Nneka Ogwumike's omission on Monday. Journalists who cover the game also weighed in.
USA coach @dawnstaley said it “breaks her heart” that @nnekaogwumike is not on the Olympic team; her current injury appears to be the key reason why, Staley indicated. @DianaTaurasi, who also is currently out with injury, did make the team, her fifth time going to Summer Games.
— Mechelle Voepel (@MechelleV) June 21, 2021
.@nnekaogwumike is only season MVP in @WNBA history who’s not been named to an Olympic team. She turns 31 on July 2; was on 2014, ‘18 World Cup teams. No @StanfordWBB grads have made U.S. Olympic team since Jennifer Azzi and Katy Steding in 1996, when @taras_tweets was USA coach.
— Mechelle Voepel (@MechelleV) June 21, 2021
— Cindy Brunson (@CindyBrunsonAZ) June 21, 2021
I absolutely cannot believe that @nnekaogwumike was left off the USA Olympic roster. I'm shocked. And bummed.
— Ann Killion (@annkillion) June 21, 2021
As did ex-WNBA player Devereaux Peters, who posted a lengthy Twitter thread Monday criticizing USA Basketball and calling for Ogwumike to be part of the team.
Nneka has been preparing for this for years. She is ready. BEEN READY and Y'ALL STEADY PLAYING WITH HER. And it kills me cuz she'll never say nothing, she just takes it on the chin and keeps it moving but F all that! THIS IS SOME BUTTERY BS!!!!!
— Devereaux *casual fan* Peters (@MsPeters14) June 21, 2021
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