WNBA star Liz Cambage cited mental health struggles for her departure from the Australian national team.
Recent revelations indicate that racist comments and a brawl were behind her Olympic withdrawal.
Cambage reportedly called Nigerian players "monkeys" and said "go back to your third-world country."
Liz Cambage is in hot water.
Nearly a year ago, the WNBA superstar abruptly parted ways with the Australian Opals mere days ahead of the Tokyo Olympics after citing mental health challenges. But recent reporting suggests Cambage's tenure with her country's women's national basketball team came to an end after a closed-door scrimmage against Nigeria turned ugly.
According to video obtained by The Daily Telegraph, an Australian outlet, the 6-foot-8 center found herself in a contentious battle in the post during the now-infamous July 13 contest. As her team trailed and her frustration grew, Cambage resorted to swinging an elbow at her opponent's chest, leaving Nigerian center Victoria Macaulay with a deep cut above her collar bone.
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After a brief timeout, things reportedly got chippy between Cambage and another player. Not long after the initial play, which one Nigerian player called "malicious," Cambage slapped an opponent across the face.
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When that player retaliated with her fists, Cambage responded with a racist tirade. Several players from both teams report hearing her tell Nigerian players to "go back to your third-world country," with others attested she called them "monkeys."
In an Instagram post published Monday, Cambage — who joined the WNBA's Los Angeles Sparks in free agency this off-season — vehemently denied using "the racial slur towards the Nigerian team that has been circulating." She also insisted that she fouled Macaulay "unintentionally" and that the entire situation "was handled privately, almost a year ago."
When asked for comment, the Sparks directed Insider to Cambage's post. The WNBA declined to comment on the situation.
Australian and Nigerian players reportedly chose to break their silence on the altercation, which took place just ahead of the Tokyo Games, after Cambage told ABC News Australia that the Sparks "protected [her] on a level that the Opals, or the Australian team, never gave to me." The interview prompted former Opals captain Jenna O'Hea to assert that Cambage will never again be welcome to rejoin the Australian national team.
Cambage's WNBA teammates in Los Angeles appear to be standing by their star as the conflict resurfaces. Longtime Sparks superstar Nneka Ogwumike, who is the president of the WNBA Players Association, said "as a team, we talked about it and we addressed it."
"Whatever agenda is happening with it resurfacing, that's other people's business," Ogwumike said Sunday during a post-game press conference. "Quite frankly, we talked about it before she came to the team. Granted, people have their own accounts of what happened, but we addressed it and we talked about how important it is for us to be together, be transparent, and also empower giving people second chances."
"And we have Liz's back," Los Angeles guard Chennedy Carter added.
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