What did Liz Cambage say? Racial slur controversy explained as Australian basketball star faces backlash online

Liz Cambage hurled racial slurs during a warm-up match in 2021 (Image via Steph Chambers/Getty Images)
Liz Cambage hurled racial slurs during a warm-up match in 2021 (Image via Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

Popular basketball player Liz Cambage reportedly called the Nigerian players 'monkeys' in the pre-Olympics practice match, leading to her exit from the national team program.

Nigerian players stated that Cambage called them 'monkeys' in a verbal and physical dispute during a warm-up game in 2021 that was eventually abandoned. The incident happened when Cambage elbowed Nigerian centre Victoria Macaulay, leaving a gash in her neck.

This led to physical retaliation, where Cambage reacted verbally. She was independently investigated and issued a formal reprimand after the practice game dispute derailed the Opals' Tokyo Olympics campaign.

Comments made by Liz Cambage

A video acquired by a news outlet shows Liz Cambage elbowing a Nigerian player in the head when the teams were facing off in a closed-door practice game in Las Vegas.

Liz Cambage called the Nigerian team monkeys (Image via Juan Ocampo/Getty Images)
Liz Cambage called the Nigerian team monkeys (Image via Juan Ocampo/Getty Images)

She reportedly slapped another Nigerian player in the face and called the whole team 'monkeys' and said, "Go back to your third world country." The practice match was canceled before the second quarter was over. The Nigerian players verified the reports and one of them said,

"That's what I recall, the term monkeys, yes. And go back to where you came from. She definitely did use monkeys or monkey."

Another player said that she was on the court and her teammates confirmed that Cambage called them monkeys. Meanwhile, before the practice game, Cambage reportedly told the players of the other team that she would rather be playing with them because her Opals teammates were racist. She is half Nigerian on her father's side.


The Opals team had its problems with Cambage as a teammate said,

"There had been so many behavioral issues that had gone on previously that we could write a book, but that [Vegas] incident happened to be the final straw which happened to be the worst one."

Liz Cambage denies directing a racial slur at the Nigerian team

Liz Cambage responded to the claims of directing a racial slur towards the Nigerian women's basketball team last year. In a lengthy statement posted on Instagram, she stated,

"The incident that took place in the pre-Olympic scrimmage with the Nigerian national team was handled privately almost a year ago. I am very disappointed and hurt by the events and accusations that have unfolded in the Australian media. The account of what took place is inaccurate and misleading. I did not use the racial slur toward the Nigerian team that has been circulating."

She mentioned that after she unintentionally fouled a Nigerian player on the court, she was physically assaulted by that player on the sideline of her bench. She said that she was hit in the face and pushed to the ground, but she walked away. She stated,

"We did not have professional referees to manage and prioritize 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."

She concluded by saying that she takes responsibility and accountability for her involvement in what occurred. She had already apologized for her actions during a Nigerian team dinner the day after the incident and to the Opals teammates.


Liz Cambage holds the WNBA single-game scoring record with her 53-point performance against the New York Liberty in 2018. The 30-year-old played for the Opals between 2009 and 2021 and won a gold medal at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, silver at the 2018 World Cup, and bronze at the 2012 Olympics.

Edited by Somava
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