Basketball politics. Stunning Olympic Team USA snub of Nneka Ogwumike.

Everything is politics whether it be in Washington, DC,  San Francisco. Every place and everywhere.

Fans want to entertain the fantasy the sports world is immune from political decisions. Fans want to believe that politics don’t enter into the equation in women’s sports.

Wrong. Read the following piece by San Francisco Chronicle sports scribe Ann Killion. Full transperancy.  We both attended the same high school.  Admittedly years apart.

San Francisco Chronicle – Ann Killion 6.25.2021

The Olympic rosters are taking shape, and the story is not only who makes Team USA, but who doesn’t.

Some athletes, like Stephen Curry, make the choice themselves. Others, like Cal swimmer Nathan Adrian, lose out by a hair: Adrian missed his fourth Olympic team by 0.25 of a second, but had beautiful perspective, as both a testicular cancer survivor and new father of a baby girl.

And then there’s the case of Stanford alum Nneka Ogwumike.

She got caught up in the politics of women’s basketball — politics that desperately needs to change.

“I’m physically sick about this,” Ogwumike’s college coach, Tara VanDerveer, said this week. “It’s like a punch in the gut.”

Ogwumike was shockingly, inexplicably left off the U.S. women’s basketball roster for Tokyo when the team was announced Monday. One of the most accomplished players in the women’s game, this was expected to be Ogwumike’s year — she was left off the team in both 2012 and 2016.

The omission rattled the women’s basketball world.

Derek Fisher, the coach of Ogwumike’s WNBA Sparks team, called it “a travesty.”

Nneka Ogwumike II 6.25.2021.jpg
Nneka Ogwumike at the free throw line

Dawn Staley, the coach of the Olympic team who does not sit on the selection committee, said the omission “breaks my heart.”

Ogwumike’s former Sparks teammate Candace Parker said the decision “was bulls—,” adding, “How many times are we going to say it’s unfair? How many times are we going to say it’s not politics?”

And that’s the real issue. Not injury, but politics.

Yes, Ogwumike, 30, has been battling a knee sprain, but she was expected to be back in time for the Olympics. What public comments anyone on the selection committee made implied Ogwumike’s injury was a factor. Yet there appears to be a double standard. Diana Taurasi, 39, has a fractured sternum and also has been unable to practice for several weeks, yet she made her fifth Olympic team.

So, where does the politics come in? As usual, in the world of women’s basketball, it has to do with Geno Auriemma and UConn.

Auriemma, who coached the team to gold medals in 2012 and 2016, is on the selection committee and remains a special adviser to the Olympic team. He has enormous influence over everything that happens with the team, and it seems to be no coincidence that whenever a player is left off the team, they are replaced by a UConn player.

In this case, Napheesa Collier made her first team, likely at the expense of Ogwumike. Collier is a UConn alumna and plays for the Minnesota Lynx. The five-person selection committee includes Auriemma, Lynx assistant Katie Smith and Connecticut Sun coach Curt Miller, whose WNBA team is closely tied to the UConn program.

In 2012, half the 12-person roster were UConn products. In 2016, there were five UConn players. This year, there will again be five of Auriemma’s players (plus half the roster in the new 3×3 version is from UConn). It gives credence to the longstanding belief that Auriemma uses promises of Olympic medals in his recruiting pitches.

Stanford has not had a player on the roster since Tara VanDerveer was the head coach in 1996, when she had two former players. That seems odd. It’s also worth noting that once her stint as an Olympic gold medal-winning coach was over, VanDerveer has never been a “special adviser” or placed on the selection committee for the team.

She is the only WNBA MVP to never make an Olympic team. She has been on two FIBA World Cup gold medal teams. She is a six-time WNBA All-Star, a former No. 1 pick and Rookie of the Year and has been totally, unconditionally committed to Team USA — making every camp for the past five years.

“She has been so loyal, and that loyalty isn’t reciprocated,” VanDerveer said. “It’s so disrespectful.

“She deserves it, she’s earned it, she has waited in line. She doesn’t need to be on the Olympics to validate who she is. But it is so painful for all of us who love her.”


Nneka Ogwumike I 6.25.2021.jpg
Nneka Ogwumike looking exasperated. At being kept off the USA Olympic team?

Ogwumike, one of the most gracious athletes I’ve ever covered, did not return a request for comment, and has kept her thoughts private since the announcement. She is a natural leader, is the president of the WNBA Players Association and has been key to so much of the important groundbreaking work the WNBA has been involved in in recent years.