Aussie basketball star Liz Cambage allegedly used a disgraceful racist slur against the Nigerian team at a warm-up game in 2021, sparking a brawl that ended with her quitting the national team.
The former Opal has been accused of calling the Nigerians ‘monkeys’ after elbowing one of her opponents in the neck and slapping another in the face during the clash, which is still sending shockwaves through the Australian national team.
Cambage used the slur after a Nigerian player king-hit her in the head as retaliation for the two physical clashes, reported the Daily Telegraph, which also obtained a video showing the star appearing to strike her opponent Victoria Macaulay with the elbow.
A Nigerian player claims the Australian told one of her teammates on the day of the brawl that she wished she played for the African nation because her fellow Opals were racist, according to the publication.
Liz Cambage has been accused of calling Nigerian players ‘monkeys’ during an infamous brawl that derailed Australia’s preparations for the Tokyo Olympics
A Nigerian player claims the former Opals star told her that her Aussie teammates were racist and she wished she played for the African nation instead
‘She was really complimenting us, and she was saying that her Australian team is racist. This was on the day of the scrimmage,’ the player said.
‘It’s like something in a movie, unrealistic.’
Earlier this month former Opals captain Jenna O’Hea alleged Cambage told the Nigerian team to ‘go back to your third world country’ during the match, which was held in Las Vegas just weeks before the Tokyo Olympics.
One Nigerian player made the same allegation to the publication, with another adding, ‘She did say, “Control your monkeys” or something like that.
‘The stuff she was saying was ridiculous. It was uncalled for, it was dirty, and it was just a bad situation.’
The Nigerians were especially shocked by the alleged slurs because Cambage’s father is from the African nation.
‘As a black person, that would be something she would be offended by, so for her to say it, I believe that she just really wanted to cut deep,’ one of the team said.
‘For us being Nigerian, any other Nigerian we see – half, a quarter – if you’re Nigerian we’ll be calling you a sister,’ another player explained.
The effect of Cambage’s alleged slurs on the Nigerians was made worse by the fact her father is Nigerian, the report claims
Nigerian players turned their back on the Aussie when she fronted their team to apologise
‘Although she’s Australian we knew she was half Nigerian so before then it was like she was one of us.
‘That was another thing to cut deep, for her to do that and not show any remorse at all.’
She went to a Nigerian team dinner the day after the brawl to apologise but half the team turned her back on her, according to the report.
An Opal said one of the Nigerians retaliated for the elbow and face slap by punching Cambage in the temple from behind, causing her to crash into the Australian bench.
The brawl left some Opals in tears and the team’s centre, Ezi Magbegor – who is of Nigerian heritage – was especially shattered.
The 30-year-old defended abandoning the Opals just weeks out from the Tokyo Games and said she never felt supported by her teammates
Cambage’s Opals teammate at the time she allegedly used the slurs, Ezi Magbegor (pictured), has Nigerian parents
Cambage was independently investigated and issued a formal reprimand – but not suspended or fined – after the practice game altercation derailed the Opals’ Tokyo campaign.
She broke her silence on the controversy after the ‘third world country’ allegations were aired by posting a cryptic tweet that read, ‘The truth will always come to light, and it ain’t even dawn yet.’
An Opals teammate said Cambage gave a ‘lighthearted’ apology to the team, which was offside with her because she allegedly didn’t participate much in their Olympic preparations.
They were further offended when the star took to Twitter to wish the Nigerian team luck in Tokyo just before the Games began.
The Opals were offended when Cambage took to Twitter to wish the Nigerian team luck at the Toyko Games just before the Olympics began
Cambage defended abandoning the Australian national basketball team weeks before the Olympics, claiming she didn’t feel supported by teammates.
The basketball superstar said she is now ‘living her best life’ playing for the Los Angeles Sparks in the WNBA.
‘I’m supported, I’m protected on a level the Opals or the Australian team never gave to me,’ she said.
That remark and the alleged ‘third world country’ slur prompted a furious response from Aussie basketball legends Andrew Bogut and Andrew Gaze.
Aussie ex-NBA star Andrew Bogut claimed the full version of Cambage’s verbal clash with the Nigerian team is ‘beyond despicable’
‘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.
‘There was some behaviour from Liz that under any reasonable judgment, there would have been some significant repercussions.
‘She was supported, not just by me, but many others along the way.’
Bogut insisted there was much worse to come on top of the alleged ‘third world’ slur.
‘It’s beyond despicable what was said and I truly believe if that was anyone else, we’d hear much more about it.
‘There’s much more in there that you can’t say on radio … there were some other words used that I would never repeat, that I would never say, to be honest with you.’