WNBA Star Kicks Ball Into Stands, Blames Soccer Roots for Ejection

  • Arike Ogunbowale earned a halftime ejection for kicking the ball into the stands on Sunday.
  • The Dallas Wings star blamed being “a soccer player first” for trying to stop the ball with her feet.
  • Ogunbowale’s coach, Vickie Johnson, said “we’re not on a soccer field” in response to the incident.

A WNBA superstar got caught playing the wrong sport — and the mistake cost her.

Dallas Wings guard Arike Ogunbowale earned an early-game technical foul and ejection for her soccer antics that could have put fans attending Sunday’s matchup against the Seattle Storm in harm’s way. After Sue Bird’s half-court heave ricocheted off the rim at the halftime buzzer, Ogunbowale extended her leg and sent the ball sailing into the stands.

No one was hurt, as an alert fan was able to catch the ball. Still, the referees determined the offense was worthy of reprimand. 

The Wings, who trailed by just one point when Ogunbowale got tossed, wound up losing the game 84-79. Shortly thereafter, last year’s All-Star Game MVP deflected any wrongdoing and blamed her actions on the fact that she “was a soccer player first.”

“Literally every practice and game I stop the basketball with my feet, pass it to my teammates with my feet etc,” Ogunbowale wrote on Twitter. “Ball comes at me fast I always stop the ball with my feet it’s just my first instinct.”

“I was in NO WAY trying to kick the ball,” she added in a follow-up tweet. “The half was over I tried to control the ball with my feet like I always do if the ball comes @ me fast. To be ejected for something like this is wild. From here on out I’ll try to remember WNBA refs aren’t fans of soccer players. #GoWings

But commentators and fans were skeptical of her explanation, especially considering the young star kicked a scorer’s table out of frustration during Dallas’ June 1 contest against the Los Angeles Sparks. Even Ogunbowale’s coach — former WNBA great Vickie Johnson — was dismissive of her star player’s excuse.

“I think that incident happened in LA as well, if I’m not mistaken,” Johnson said in her postgame press conference. “We’re not on a soccer field — we’re on a basketball court. And you have to respect the game, period.”

“Whatever the referee called, they called,” she added. “I haven’t gotten a chance to look at it, but we play basketball with our hands, not with our feet.”

The WNBA rule book states that “any player who throws or kicks the ball directly into the stands with force, regardless of the reason or where it lands, will be assessed a technical foul and ejected.” Should referees determine that Ogunbowale’s technical falls into the “unsportsmanlike conduct” category, the league will almost certainly slap her with a fine.

Representatives for the WNBA did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.

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