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Nigeria player denies Liz Cambage claims: ‘She called us monkeys’

(Juan Ocampo/NBAE via Getty Images)

Liz Cambage, who allegedly directed a racial slur at Nigerian players while playing for the Australia national basketball team in 2021, now intends to play for Nigeria — or so she claimed Monday in an interview with Bleacher Report’s Taylor Rooks.

The former WNBA star also denied using a slur, instead saying she is being used as a “scapegoat” by the Australian Opals.

“Why does Nigeria want me to leave Australia and go and represent them?” said Cambage, whose father is Nigerian. “We’re filing for me to leave the Australian team, so I can represent Nigeria. I’ve been in cahoots, I’ve been talking to them since all of this happened. This is what I mean, people don’t know the truth.”

Several Nigerian players and basketball officials have disputed both of Cambage’s assertions. Cambage is not in talks to play for the Nigeria national team, and she did indeed direct a slur at its players during a 2021 scrimmage, Nigerian representatives said.

“I’m sorry but this is false,” Nigerian guard Promise Amukamara wrote Monday as part of a Twitter thread. “She called us monkeys and told us to go back to our country. Yes she said that!

“Literally everyone from both teams have the same story BUT her, so y’all do the math!”

Nigerian guard Sarah Ogoke also weighed in, writing: “We are not recruiting you and you definitely spewed racist profanities against us during our scrimmage.”

Jordin Canada, who played with Cambage during her brief and rocky tenure with the Los Angeles Sparks in 2022, also pushed back after the interview. “I usually keep to myself and mind my business but Bleacher Report if y’all want the REAL TRUTH, call me,” Canada wrote.

Nigerian basketball officials also have denied speaking with Cambage about playing for the national team, ESPN contributor Colin Udoh reported Tuesday.

“I don’t know who she’s talking to,” Nigeria Basketball Federation vice president Babs Ogunade told Udoh.

When Cambage went to the Nigerian team to apologize in the immediate aftermath of the 2021 scrimmage, she brought up the possibility of playing for Nigeria with then-coach Otis Hughely, but the discussions have not progressed further, per Udoh’s report and Amukamara’s Twitter thread.

Meanwhile, Australia coach Sandy Brondello has cut short any speculation about a return to the Opals, telling CodeSports on Aug. 4 that the “door has closed” on Cambage’s time with the team.

“We spend a lot of time on culture and if you can’t buy into the culture, I won’t pick you,” Brondello said. “It is as simple as that.”

In her interview with Bleacher Report, Cambage detailed her struggles with the Opals, from teammates wearing blackface to coaches fostering friction between teammates. And she expressed optimism about the possibility of playing for Nigeria at the 2024 Olympics in Paris.

“I really hope Australia releases me and FIBA allows it because my fans miss me playing,” she said. “I would love to do another Olympics. Paris would be fab… My last Olympics was hideous. Rio Olympics was horrible. The Rio Olympics was one of the worst times of my life, and that’s a reflection of the coaching staff and the team.

“I would love to start fresh with teammates that understand me, look like me and appreciate me and respect me. I have been talking with the Nigerian coach. It was every day when this all first happened. Coach Otis and I are pretty tight and he has my back.”

Cambage concluded the interview once more emphasizing her desire to play for Nigeria.

“I really hope it happens because I want to go to another Olympics,” she said, “And I really respect those girlies.”