— Published 15 June 2021

Hamane Niang at the heart of the storm

Hamane Niang

That’s a very bad case. With less than 40 days to go before the Tokyo Games, FIBA no longer has a president. At least for a while. The incumbent, Malian Hamane Niang, stepped down temporarily on Sunday, June 13th, after the publication of an investigation by the New York Times suggesting that he had “ignored” sexual harassment behaviour over a 12-year period. The American daily explains that the African leader, elected to the presidency of FIBA in 2019 after a political career in Mali, would have “largely ignored the assault of women for a dozen years between 1999 and 2011, when he was first president of the Malian basketball federation and then the country’s sports minister.” The New York Times investigation focuses on allegations of systemic sexual harassment of dozens of female players in Mali. In an email to the New York Times, Hamane Niang “strongly rejects” the accusations made by the two authors of the article, Jere Longman and Romain Molina. “I have never been involved and I have never been aware of the accusations described in your correspondence,” he said. FIBA, for its part, did not remain without a response. The international basketball body explained in a statement published on Monday, June 14th, that it was aware of the information in the American daily. It said it had “shared them with independent integrity officer Richard McLaren, who has opened an investigation”. It added that it had “requested the collaboration of the Malian Federation”, recalled its “zero tolerance towards all forms of harassment and abuse”, and said it respected Hamane Niang’s presumption of innocence, pending further evidence. FIBA also explained that it had suspended two Malian coaches and an official from all functions during the investigation: coaches Amadou Bamba and Oumar Sissoko, and the manager Hario Maiga. Hamane Niang having temporarily relinquished the presidency, the supreme function will be assumed in the interim by the first vice-president of FIBA, Qatari Sheik Saud Ali Al-Thani.