This has been a very bizarre week when it comes to Liz Cambage. The four-time WNBA all-star is playing ball in Israel after stunning the basketball world by asking for her release from the Los Angeles Sparks in 2022 — but returned to headlines this week after footage emerged of the infamous scrimmage between Australia and Nigeria ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
The details of that scrimmage have always been shrouded in mystery and hearsay. We know that there was a practice game between the two, and because of the Covid bubble there weren’t officials — with team coaches serving as refs. Prior to the leaked video there were reports that Cambage became physical with several Nigerian players, before being punched, after allegedly calling them “monkeys,” adding “go back to your third world country.” Claims which Cambage has vehemently denied.
Leaked video didn’t capture what was said, but did show the physicality which ultimately led to the scrimmage being cancelled.
This footage of Liz Cambage vs Nigeria is crazy pic.twitter.com/cb1lzveb68— Kenny King Jr (@KennyKing_Jr) August 10, 2023
Full video of the eight minute game can be found here, which include the above incidents — but the edited TikTok shows the key moments being discussed. It seems from the video that something was said that sparked the punch that ultimately cancelled the practice, though microphones didn’t pick it up.
When asked directly about what was said, former Australia captain Jenna O’Hea confirmed in an interview that Cambage made the racist remarks, and that she hadn’t spoken to Cambage since the scrimmage as a result.
The Australian captain confirmed Cambage racially abused the Nigerians pic.twitter.com/gdP1hbavAZ— Ose Anenih (@ose_anenih) August 9, 2023
This whole situation was especially stunning considering that one of Cambage’s teammates Ezi Magbegor was of Nigerian descent, moving with her family to Australia at the age of six. Perhaps even more astonishing is that CAMBAGE’S FATHER IS FROM NIGERIA.
Cambage infamously quit the Australian national team two weeks before the Olympics citing mental-health issues. She has not played for Australia since, and recently expressed interest in playing for Nigeria, rather than play for Australia again.
So, if you’re following along up to this point here’s where we’re at:
- Australia plays Nigeria in a 2021 scrimmage, in which Cambage is punched for alleged racial slurs.
- Cambage leaves the Australian national team.
- Cambage denies the slurs, but Australia’s captain confirms them.
- Cambage expresses interest in playing for Nigeria, and explores what needs to be done to play for her father’s country.
- Video emerges of the Australia vs. Nigeria scrimmage.
- Cambage posts this:
This is such a weird mess. None of the players on the Nigerian team at the time have spoken about the incident, with only the account from O’Hea (confirming the slurs happened) and Cambage (denying the slurs happened) being on the record. Even if we push the racism claims to the side, it’s profoundly bizarre that two years after getting into multiple physical altercations with the Nigerian team Cambage would now turn around and want to join them.