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Liz Cambage Reportedly Called Nigerian Players “Monkeys” During Olympic Scrimmage

Liz Cambage
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Liz Cambage’s sudden exit from the Australian Olympic basketball team has remained shrouded in mystery ever since it happened nearly a year ago. At the time, Cambage explained her leaving the team right before the start of the Tokyo Olympics by citing panic attacks and difficulty eating and sleeping. Vague reports about an incident that occurred during a scrimmage between the Australian and Nigerian teams followed, but specifics about what that incident looked like have been hard to come by, until today.

The Daily Telegraph has published a report about what went down during that scrimmage, and it does not flatter Cambage. According to the report, things started to go sideways after Cambage threw an elbow into the head of a Nigerian player who was guarding her (the Telegraph story includes a video clip of this elbow). After a timeout, Cambage got tangled up with another Nigerian player and slapped her in the face, and as Cambage was walking to the bench after that incident, the aggrieved Nigerian player rushed up behind Cambage and punched her with a closed fist. This is when, according to Nigerian players who spoke to the Telegraph, Cambage called them “monkeys.” From the report:

A furious Cambage then unloaded a verbal barrage at the Nigerians.

Two Nigerian players confirmed they directly heard Cambage refer to them as “monkeys”.

“She did say, ‘Control your monkeys’ or something like that,” one player said. “The stuff she was saying was ridiculous.

“It was uncalled for, it was dirty, and it was just a bad situation.

“I wasn’t hurt by it (the comments) because I knew it was an ignorant person saying it.”

The second player said: “That’s what I recall, the term monkeys, yes. And go back to where you came from.

“Those were the two main ones that stood out to me. The rest of it was basic trash talk.

“She definitely did use monkeys or monkey.”

A third player told this investigation: “I was on the court. She definitely said go back to your third world country. I didn’t hear it, but (teammates) confirmed she called us monkeys.”

Daily Telegraph

The report goes on to say that Cambage, whose father is Nigerian, went to a Nigerian team dinner the next day in order to apologize for her actions. One player told the Telegraph that half the team turned their back on Cambage while she was speaking, but another indicated that at least some of the players accepted her apology. “Liz did go to my teammate who was slapped in the face and gave her a hug and that was fine,” the player said.

Cambage’s relationship with the Australian national team and media was incredibly fraught even before she left the team last summer, and it’s impossible to imagine her ever representing her country again. At this point, that’s probably the best outcome for everyone involved.

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