all scores

Liz Cambage fallout explained: Where former WNBA star stands

(Juan Ocampo/NBAE via Getty Images)

A year after Liz Cambage and the Sparks agreed to a contract divorce and her time in Los Angeles came to an unceremonious end, the Australian basketball star has emerged from a quiet year to speak about the Sparks, the WNBA and the controversy that’s plagued her career.

Cambage joined Bleacher Report’s Taylor Rooks for an explosive interview that dropped Monday. During the conversation, which lasted an hour and a half, Cambage denied allegations that she used a racial slur toward the Nigerian national team and said she left the Sparks halfway through last season because of a “toxic situation,” among other topics.

The Sparks have not commented on the claims nor addressed Cambage’s departure since releasing the following statement during the 2022 season:

“It is with support that we share Liz Cambage’s decision to terminate her contract with the organization,” Sparks Managing Partner Eric Holoman said last July. “We want what’s best for Liz and have agreed to part ways amicably. The Sparks remain excited about our core group and are focused on our run towards a 2022 playoff berth.”

The Sparks also did not respond to a request for comment from Just Women’s Sports. Meanwhile, many are questioning the validity of Cambage’s claims, including former teammates and opponents.

Cambage opened the interview by discussing her decision to leave L.A. after 25 games in 2022. The four-time WNBA All-Star said she signed with the Sparks on a “Hollywood lie” that included the organization offering to buy her a car, pay her rent and cover other expenses.

Per the WNBA’s collective bargaining agreement, such perks would appear to fall under the category of impermissible benefits. Cambage was set to earn $170,000 in 2022 after signing a one-year deal with the Sparks that February, and she reportedly agreed to $141,386 in exchange for the contract divorce.

Cambage went on to tell Rooks that she left in the middle of the season to get out of a “toxic” environment.

“I’m dealing with a lot of disrespect, a lot of turbulent players in the locker room,” she said. “I’m telling coaches, I’m telling the GM, I’m telling ownership what’s going on, and no one cares.”

Cambage ultimately decided to leave the team during a regular-season game against the Las Vegas Aces on July 23. She said her Sparks teammates were “yelling at her” because “they didn’t know how to make a lob pass,” and after an Aces player took a charge against her and she got subbed out, she told Chiney Ogwumike that she was “done.”

Cambage played 25 games with the Sparks in 2022 before leaving midseason. (Meg Oliphant/Getty Images)

Former Sparks teammate Jordin Canada took to Twitter on Tuesday to dispute the claims that Cambage was mistreated.

“I usually keep to myself and mind my business but Bleacher Report if y’all want the REAL TRUTH, call me,” Canada wrote.

Cambage’s exit from the Sparks last season was messy, but not necessarily surprising. Since being drafted in 2011, Cambage has played for 12 different teams, four in the WNBA and several overseas in China, Australia and Israel. She has never played consecutive seasons with one team.

Her WNBA stints include being drafted by Tulsa in 2011, a team Cambage was vocal about not wanting to play for. She spent one season there before leaving to play in China. She came back in 2013 to play 20 games with the Shock before exiting the WNBA until 2018. She then played a season in Dallas and two seasons in Las Vegas (with a year off in between), before playing part of the 2022 season in L.A.

Cambage wasn’t the only source of dysfunction in L.A. last season. The Sparks fired head coach and general manager Derek Fisher in June after a disappointing tenure. Chennedy Carter, the mercurial talent whom Fisher reportedly pushed the team to sign in the offseason, was benched during the season for poor conduct and waived this past March.

Cambage told Rooks that she doesn’t understand why her short stints across the WNBA are controversial, saying she “knows girls who have played for every team.” Cambage referenced Candace Parker as someone who’s played for multiple franchises. The two-time WNBA champion has been in the league for 16 seasons, playing 13 in L.A. and two in Chicago before signing with the Aces before this season.

Outside of the WNBA, Cambage also controversially parted ways with the Australian national team in 2021, citing mental health concerns as part of her reasoning not to represent the team. This followed a pre-Olympics scrimmage with Nigeria, in which an on-court altercation ensued and Cambage allegedly directed a racial slur at Nigeria’s players.

In the interview, Cambage said the video footage from the scrimmage would prove she didn’t do anything wrong and that she was “assaulted.” The video, circulated on Tuesday, shows a Nigerian player ran at Cambage on the sideline and struck her with a punch. The video also shows Cambage’s elbow making contact with the player’s head on the court prior to the altercation.

Following the scrimmage in 2021, both Australian and Nigerian players said that Cambage called the Nigerian players “monkeys” and told them to “go back to their third-world country.”

Cambage denied making the remarks in her interview with Rooks and said she was in talks to play for the Nigerian team in the future. Cambage’s father is Nigerian.

Cambage represented Australia at the 2012 and 2016 Olympics. (Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

Nigeria guard Promise Amukamara disputed both claims on Twitter, saying, “She called us Monkeys & 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!”

Amukamara also denied that Cambage was in talks to play for Nigeria, something her teammate Sarah Ogoke echoed on Twitter.

“We are not recruiting you and you definitely spewed racist profanities against us during our scrimmage,” Ogoke wrote.

Babs Ogunade, Vice President of the Nigeria Basketball Federation, later told ESPN reporter Colin Udoh that there was no truth to Cambage’s claim that she was “in cahoots” with Nigeria to switch her allegiance and play for them.

“Disregard the news,” he said. “I don’t know who she is talking to. Not me and definitely not (NBBF President) Kida.”

Cambage attempted to clarify her comments in a statement on Twitter on Tuesday. While she continued to deny using a racial slur against the Nigerian players, she also said she never stated that she had “officially joined the Nigerian national team.”

“Instead, I expressed my interest in joining the team and representing Nigeria,” Cambage wrote. “I had discussions with staff members about the necessary steps to become eligible, and thought I was doing them. I extend my best wishes to all players on D’Tigress.”

Eden Laase is a Staff Writer at Just Women’s Sports. Follow her on Twitter @eden_laase.