A British newspaper reported this weekend that former Aces standout Liz Cambage left the Australian national basketball team before the 2021 Tokyo Olympics after an incident with the Nigerian national team during a scrimmage at UNLV that turned violent and racially abusive.
The Daily Telegraph reported that Cambage elbowed a Nigerian player in the head during the closed-door scrimmage, sparking a confrontation that culminated in Cambage slapping a Nigerian player in the face.
Several anonymous Nigerian players also told the Telegraph that Cambage called them “monkeys” during the altercation. The report comes weeks after Jenna O’Hea, Cambage’s former Australian teammate and then-Opals captain, confirmed that Cambage told the Nigerian players to “go back to your third-world country” during the dispute.
“That’s what I recall, the term monkeys, yes. And go back to where you came from,” one Nigerian player told the Telegraph. “She definitely did use monkeys or monkey.”
Cambage organized a dinner with the Nigerian team and apologized a day later, but several players said they thought it was insincere.
The alleged comments came after Cambage, whose father is Nigerian, reportedly told Nigerian players she wished she had played for their national team because her Australian teammates were racist.
“Although she’s Australian, we knew she was half Nigerian, so before then it was like she was one of us,” an anonymous Nigerian player told the Telegraph. “That was another thing to cut deep, for her to do that and not show any remorse at all.”
Australian team officials called off the practice shortly after Cambage’s exit. The 6-foot-8-inch center later withdrew from the team, citing mental health concerns.
In November, Basketball Australia, the country’s governing body for the sport, reprimanded Cambage for her conduct during the scrimmage after an independent review, but did not fine or suspend her.
According to the Telegraph, this wasn’t the first time Cambage had pushed the Opals to the breaking point. She had threatened to quit for various reasons and used her star status to get preferential treatment, including being allowed to play in the 2021 WNBA All-Star Game in Las Vegas.
Cambage remains eligible to represent Australia at the 2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup in Sydney, but has indicated on social media that she won’t play for the Opals again.
Cambage left the Aces as a free agent in the offseason and signed with the Los Angeles Sparks.
Contact reporter Andy Yamashita at email@example.com. Follow @ANYamashita on Twitter.