Liz Cambage allegedly insulted the Nigerian team during a game with Australia
Controversial basketball player Liz Cambage has been accused of verbally abusing members of the Nigerian national team by her former captain for Australia.
Jenna O’Hea captained Team Australia at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, during the build-up to which Cambage had complained that there were too many white players in the Australian Olympic team photo while threatening to boycott the athletics spectacle.
Appearing on ABC Sport Down Under as the WNBA season kicked off in the US last weekend, however, O’Hea was asked whether it was true that Cambage had ignited a brawl by telling her Nigerian rivals to “go back to your Third World country” in a Tokyo 2020 warm-up game in Las Vegas.
“That is all 100% correct,” O’Hea confirmed, with Cambage, who eventually withdrew from the Olympics citing mental health struggles and now plays for the Los Angeles Sparks, indirectly responding to the allegations.
“The truth will always come to light, and it ain’t even dawn yet,” tweeted Cambage.
But some figures such as Andrew Bogut, who has a long-running social media dispute with Cambage, said that the star’s “sledging” – as verbal sports provocation is known in Australia – was even worse than what has been reported.
“You’ve just got the PG version, there was much more than that – I’m just glad someone’s come out and said it,” remarked 2015 NBA champion Bogut to Sydney’s 2GB radio station on Monday.
What was behind Liz Cambage's falling out with the Opals?
— ABC SPORT (@abcsport) May 8, 2022
Not a fan of Cambage either, former player and coach Andrew Gaze claimed that Cambage’s criticism of Basketball Australia was “unfair.”
“Above and beyond that [the Nigeria comments], the thing that really, really grates at me is when she makes the comments to say she feels supported in Los Angeles at a level that wasn’t there with the Australian team and the suggestion that she was never supported by Australia, the Opals, or Basketball Australia… that is highly offensive,” said Gaze to SEN radio.
“I have been in a privileged position to be on the board of Basketball Australia during much of her time and I had a long conversation with her directly, and unfortunately, I couldn’t have that conversation just one on one, her agent had to be there,” Gaze continued.
“She was supported, not just by me, but by others along the way … to say that she wasn’t supported is unfair,” he finished.
Cambage called withdrawing from the Australian team on the eve of the Olympics “literally one of the hardest decisions of my life” and has blasted the “lies” and “fake news” surrounding the development.
“Yeah, things got heated in the Nigeria game, there was a physical altercation and there were words exchanged,” she said around the time of the fracas in July last year. “But I’m hearing things that aren’t true at all. Everything that happened and everything I’ve said is on film.”
Despite remaining eligible for this year’s World Cup in Sydney, Cambage has already suggested she will never play for the Australian national team again.
“I’m living my best life. I’m supported, I’m protected on a level that the Opals or the Australian team never gave to me,” she claimed to ABC, which sparked Gaze’s comments.
“My heart lies with those who want to protect me and those who want me to be the best I can be, and I never felt that at the Opals at all. So yeah, I’m good,” Cambage finished.
Joining the criticism elsewhere, a Daily Telegraph political reporter in Australia wrote that the comments from “trumped up athlete” Cambage were “hypocrisy beyond belief.”
“The whole thing feels a bit like those stories from the US about anti-gay southern preachers who get busted conducting a bit of ‘men’s ministry’ in a cheap motel,” the wrote James Morrow, highlighting Cambage’s alleged double standards in complaining about a lack of diversity in the Australian Olympics team photo but supposedly abusing the Nigerians in such a manner while also having a Nigerian father.
“Australians are getting sick of being told how racist we are, especially from a trumped up athlete who, it turns out, might need to turn the mirror on herself on this score,” he continued.
“‘Go back to your third world country’ is a disgraceful thing to say to a group of African women, and we all know what the response from the outrage brigade would be if the comment was uttered by a player of a fairer skin tone. The hypocrisy is beyond belief,” it was concluded.