Liz Cambage Denies Directing Racial Slur at Nigerian Players Before Olympics

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Los Angeles Sparks center Liz Cambage on Monday addressed a recent report alleging the WNBA star used a racial slur during a heated scrimmage with Nigeria prior to the 2021 Tokyo Olympics.

According to an investigation conducted by The Daily Telegraph, Cambage, 30, was seen on camera participating in a scuffle with members of the Nigerian national team after the Australian center elbowed one opponent in the head and slapped another in the face in a closed-door practice. During the ensuing fight, Cambage reportedly called the Nigerian players “monkeys” and told them to “go back to your third-world country,” per testimony given by anonymous Nigerian players present at the scene.

In a lengthy post shared on her Instagram, Cambage, whose father is Nigerian, called the report “inaccurate and misleading” and denied using any racial slurs. The four-time All-Star also expressed her disappointment upon receiving the news over the weekend after noting the incident was “handled privately” last year.

“The incident that took place during the pre-Olympic scrimmage with the Nigerian team was handled privately, almost a year ago,” she began. “I am very disappointed and hurt by the events and accusations that have unfolded in the Australian media. The recount of what took place is inaccurate and misleading.

“I did not use the racial slur towards the Nigerian team that has been circulating.”

Cambage then provided her version of events leading up to and after the scrimmage. According to The Daily Telegraph, Cambage’s outburst forced Australian officials to end the game before the second quarter following the fight. However, as Cambage explained, her role in the fight differs from the account given in the report.

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“After I unintentionally fouled a Nigerian player on court I was then physically assaulted by this player on the sideline of my bench,” she explained. “I was hit in the face and pushed to the ground but I walked away. Prior to the game I asked to sit out because I was concerned about my mental and physical health, which I have addressed publicly. We did not have professional referees to manage and prioritise both teams’ safety during this highly physical scrimmage.

“This is not an excuse or justification to the events that unfolded or my actions, however, I feel that a full picture of the environment that led to this outcome must be shared.”

Cambage, who is currently in her first season with L.A., withdrew from last year’s Summer Olympics prior to the July 23 start date in an effort to focus on her wellbeing. The then-Aces star’s withdrawal came a day after ESPN reported the Australia national team was evaluating Cambage’s future with the program following a “physical altercation” and “charged verbal exchange” with Nigerian players, though the details were not given.

Cambage ended her statement by expressing her remorse for the incident as well as her desire to continue working on her mental and physical health. She also noted that she “genuinely” apologized to the Nigerian team; The Daily Telegraph reported Cambage’s apology a day after the scuffle “wasn’t well received by every player.”

“I have taken responsibility and accountability for my involvement in what occurred,” she said. “I genuinely apologised to the Nigerian team and I once again, am sorry that these events are being rehashed. I truly hope that I can move forward from this incident and apply actionable effort to be my best self.”

An overseas star who joined the WNBA as the No. 2 overall pick in 2011, Cambage has continued to shine despite playing for four teams across her six seasons. She was named All-WNBA first team after leading the league in scoring in 2018 with Dallas, and earned second-team honors in 2019 with the Aces. 

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