Olympics’ Ogwumike Omission can’t be Overlooked


This morning, the US Women’s Olympic team roster was announced on Good Morning America. Fans had been patiently awaiting this news for some time, especially after the WNBA announced its new format for this year’s All-Star game.

As fans received the news, they took to Twitter to share their thoughts. The roster received generally good responses, but there was one question that kept being asked:

Why is Nneka Ogwumike not on the roster?

Injury, Maybe?

The easiest explanation is Nneka has been out with a knee injury for a few weeks. She last played on June 1. USA head coach Dawn Staley implied that this could be the reason the committee left Ogwumike off of the roster:

For clarification: Staley does not have much of, if any say in the final roster decisions. The indictments made here fall on the Olympic Committee, made up of Carol Callan, Geno Auriemma, Curt Miller, and Katie Smith. That said, citing injury as the main reason exposes some inconsistencies in the selection process.

Diana Taurasi last played on May 21. She suffered a fractured sternum and has been recovering from that. Both she and Ogwumike are expected to return around the same time, before the Olympics. So, why was she chosen and Nneka wasn’t?

The Narrative?

Diana Taurasi is a legend in women’s basketball. This piece is not meant to to diminish her accomplishments, impact, or talent. I have no issue with her inclusion on this team, and I hope she and Sue Bird win their historic fifth gold medal. But, if she’s receiving a legacy inclusion, and being given a chance at a fifth appearance despite being injured, why isn’t Nneka receiving the same chance to get her first?


And what about the equally important narrative surrounding Nneka? As of now, Ogwumike is the only MVP in WNBA history to not have an Olympic appearance. In 2012, her first year in the WNBA, she wasn’t selected. In 2016, the year she won MVP and a championship, she was excluded once again. Now, she’s been left off for the third time, despite working incredibly hard and embracing USA Basketball more than anyone. Her time with USA Basketball is extensive, dating back to 2007, per usab.com:

How does a player of her caliber and commitment not have an Olympic appearance yet? Just a mere 9 months ago, Ogwumike was named MVP of the FIBA Women’s Qualifying Tournament, as her sister Erica was quick to remind everyone:


When you consider all that Ogwumike has done as president of the WNBA Player’s Association since 2016, it isn’t farfetched to say she is a big reason why the team is even getting to play this year. In January 2020, she helped negotiate the WNBA’s most recent CBA, which is arguably the most impactful in league history. She then guided the league through the COVID pandemic and into the Wubble. Ogwumike led the way as the league found a way to make the season happen, and she helped form ways for the players to speak out on topics that matter most to them. On top of all that, she played in 18 of the 22 games in the Wubble. And that’s just 2020. Ogwumike has been a champion for not only the WNBA, but women’s sports as a whole, and has used her platform to expand the game.

We’ve been here before…

Every year, there are snubs. It is inevitable, and it has to happen. There are only 12 spots, with a pool usually two or three times that size. The players’ fates lie in the hands of the committee. But, not all snubs are built the same. The exclusion of Ogwumike reminded many fans of the 2016 Olympics, when the committee didn’t choose Candace Parker as one of the 12 Olympic finalists. Many felt that decision was made by then-coach Geno Auriemma, who is now a member of the selection committee. Even back then, many felt Auriemma had turned the Olympic team into “Club UConn,” as six of the players on that roster played at the storied university. Fast forward five years, and there are still murmurs of that repeating itself, this time with Ogwumike being the odd player out. This year’s roster features five former Huskies.

Of course, if pressed on the subject, the committee would adamantly deny any sort of college-based bias. Sparks and Stanford fans would beg to differ.

A Bad Look

Regardless of why Ogwumike wasn’t selected, her exclusion is a terrible look for USA Basketball. No woman in basketball has been more in the spotlight in recent memory, and not many could have handled the pressure with the grace she did, while also remaining committed to her craft. Just like Candace in 2016, Nneka is only 30 years old (she will be 31 on July 2) and in her playing prime. She led team USA during their barnstorming tour just last year, and now doesn’t even make the roster. As Ogwumike’s sister Chiney said, “there is no better representative or ambassador for the game that has game than Nnemkadi Ogwumike.

It’s a shame the Olympic committee viewed it any differently.

About Richmond Bailey Caldwell

Die-hard Grizzlies fan since 2009. Aspiring basketball writer and coach. University of Georgia sport management alum. Perennial first team all-defense selection.

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