Liz Cambage maintains she didn’t use racial slur in 2021 altercation; wants to play for Nigeria

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - JUNE 11: Center Liz Cambage #1 of the Los Angeles Sparks looks on during warm ups before the game against the Las Vegas Aces at Arena on June 11, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images)

Basketball star Liz Cambage sat down with Taylor Rooks on Monday to discuss the struggles of her career. (Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images)

It’s been over two years since Liz Cambage withdrew from the Tokyo Olympics after reports of a physical and verbal altercation during a scrimmage against Nigeria. On Monday, she once again denied allegations that she called Nigerian players “monkeys” and expressed the desire to play with them during the upcoming Paris Olympics.

In a sit-down interview with Taylor Rooks of Bleacher Report, Cambage emphasized her struggle with depression near the Tokyo Olympics. She claimed that teammates and other personnel were aware of her lack of enthusiasm to be playing in the COVID-impacted Olympic Games, which caused them to take issue with her.

The former WNBA star, who was representing Australia with the Opals at the time of the allegations, was also accused of telling Nigerian players “Go back to your third-world country.”

Three days after that scrimmage, she released a statement citing mental health, panic attacks and the “terrifying” idea of entering a bubble.

“A lot of girls don’t like me,” Cambage told Rooks when asked why she would have been falsely accused of using racial slurs. “I don’t really lean towards racially backed insults. That’s not how I go. I’m very pro-black. I did not say this to these girls.”

Cambage compared the experience to 2016, which was an Olympic year that she said marked the worst her mental health has ever been. She wrote openly about her struggle with depression for the Player’s Tribune three years later.

She later clarified that she made a comment saying “We should all go back to our countries,” because she was so dissatisfied with her experience in Tokyo.

The 31-year-old has a Nigerian father and seemed to drop a bombshell about her future basketball plans in the interview.

“Why does Nigeria want me to leave Australia and go represent them?” We’re filing for me to leave the Australian team so I can represent Nigeria,” she said. “I’ve been in cahoots, I’ve been talking with them since all of this happened.”

Shortly after footage of Cambage making that claim surfaced on social media, Nigeria women’s basketball team player Promise Amukamara shared a rebuttal.

“I’m sorry but this is False,” she wrote. In a series of later Tweets, Amukamara asserted Cambage did call members of the Nigerian team Monkeys and tell them to go back to their country, adding that “the only person she has been in “cahoots” w/ was the former coach of our National team & he’s no longer the coach, so there’s that!”

In 2022, Cambage announced she was stepping away from the WNBA following her midseason “contract divorce” with the Los Angeles Sparks. Before that, she spent three years with the Las Vegas Aces. She played in 2019 and 2021 and sat out in 2020 due to COVID-19.

The four-time All-Star told Rooks she never aspired to be in the WNBA and wasn’t well-liked because she “knew [her] worth” after playing overseas. Some of her international stops include China, Australia and New Zealand. In March, The Athletic reported Cambage had officially signed with Maccabi Bnot Ashdod in Israel.

She was selected with the now-defunct Tulsa Shock’s second overall pick of the 2011 WNBA Draft and became increasingly vocal about problems with the WNBA’s CBA and other issues throughout her career.

Cambage ended her interview with Rooks on a hopeful note about her future with the Nigerian team.

“I really hope it happens because I want to go to another Olympics,” she said, “And I really respect those girlies. [The situation] does upset me, because I love being Black.”

She noted that she tried to assimilate to whiteness as a kid in Australia, but her African heritage is something she wears “with pride now.”

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