During a scrimmage leading up to last year’s Olympics in Tokyo, WNBA star Liz Cambage allegedly threw out a racial slur toward Nigerian national team members – which seems to have played a role in her recent move to the Los Angeles Sparks.
In addition to the suspected verbal abuse, she apparently slammed her elbow to the neck of another player. The incident was so severe that it prompted Australian officials to stop the game before the end of the second quarter, the Daily Telegraph reported.
The Australian basketball player- who at the time played for the Opals – reportedly used the term “monkeys” and told the women to “go back to your Third World country.”
“That’s what I recall, the term monkeys, yes. And go back to where you came from,” a player from Nigeria said. “She definitely did use monkeys or monkey.”
“I was on the court. She definitely said go back to your Third World country,” another unnamed player said.”I didn’t hear it, but [teammates] confirmed she called us monkeys.”
Cambage apparently apologized to the opposing team after the incident, but they were generally unmoved by the gesture.
“I think it was bulls***,” a player recalled. “I don’t think it was a sincere apology.”
Cambage’s Nigerian heritage made it difficult for the African team to shake off the slur.
“Although she’s Australian, we knew she was half Nigerian. So, before then, it was like she was one of us,” a Nigerian team member said. “That was another thing to cut deep, for her to do that and not show any remorse at all.”
After the incident, 30-year-old Cambage withdrew from the Tokyo Olympics claiming that her mental health was preventing her from dribbling the ball in Japan.
“Relying on daily medication to control my anxiety is not the place I want to be right now. Especially walking into competition on the world’s biggest sporting stage,” Cambage wrote on social media. “It breaks my heart to announce I’m withdrawing from the Olympics, but I think it’s best for the Opals and myself.”
— Elizabeth Cambage (@ecambage) July 16, 2021
Cambage has since broken ties with the Australian Opals and wears a Los Angeles Sparks jersey in the WNBA.
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“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 told ABC.
“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.”
She is looking to show the Sparks what kind of huge scoring she can bring for the team.
“I didn’t have that green light in Vegas and I don’t know, some people must have forgot what my scoring record looked like,” she said.
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