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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.”

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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.

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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.

Nelly Korda ties LPGA record with fifth-straight tournament win

Nelly Korda of the United States celebrates with the trophy after winning The Chevron Championship
Nelly Korda poses with her trophy after acing her fifth-straight tour title at The Chevron Championship on Sunday. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

25-year-old American pro golfer Nelly Korda secured her spot in LPGA history on Sunday, notching her fifth-straight title at this weekend's Chevron Championship in The Woodlands, Texas.

Ranked No. 1 in the world by Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings, Korda joins Nancy Lopez (1978) and Annika Sörenstam (2005) as just the third LPGA player to rack up five consecutive tour wins. She is also the third No. 1-ranked player to capture The Chevron Championship victory since the rankings debuted in 2006, accompanied by Lorena Ochoa and Lydia Ko.

The Florida native shot three-under 69 in Sunday's final, besting Sweden's Maja Stark despite Stark's valiant come-from-behind attempt in the 18th. Korda finished with a four-day total of 13-under 275, celebrating her two-stroke win by cannonballing into Poppie's Pond, much to the crowd's delight. She left The Club at Carlton Woods with $1.2 million from an overall purse of $7.9 million.

It wasn't long ago that the two-time major champion's current winning streak seemed unimaginable. After maintaining her No. 1 position for 29 weeks, Korda underwent surgery to remove a blood clot from her left arm in 2022. She returned to the course not long after, but failed to win a single tournament in 2023 before seeing a surge in form during the first four months of 2024. As of today, she hasn't lost a tournament since January.

Korda will attempt a record sixth-straight win at next week's JM Eagle LA Championship at Wilshire Country Club in Los Angeles, where she'll vie for a cut of the $3.75 million purse.

Smith and Swanson shine in action-packed NWSL weekend

sophia smith celebrates after a goal for the portland thorns
Sophia Smith's 27th-minute goal paved the way for Portland's first win of the season. (Soobum Im/USA TODAY Sports)

USWNT regulars Sophia Smith and Mallory Swanson furthered their cases for Olympic inclusion with their respective club victories on Saturday and Sunday.

After a roller coaster of a week that saw former Thorns head coach Mike Norris reassigned and a flurry of last-minute roster reshufflings as Friday's trade window closure loomed, the NWSL sprung to life over the weekend with standout performances from ninth-place Portland and third-place Chicago, among others.

After her blocked attempt at goal set up a volleying sixth-minute opener from veteran Christine Sinclair — now the only player in history to record a goal in all 11 NWSL seasons — Smith swiftly netted her own in the 27th minute off a breakaway run that eluded Houston's backline. The goal represented Smith's third of the season as well as her 35th for the Thorns, ultimately leading to the home side's first win of the season in a 4-1 routing of the Dash.

But that wasn't Smith's only stat of the evening. The star forward also lapped former Chicago Red Star Sam Kerr to become the youngest player to reach 50 NWSL goal contributions across all games, chalking up 40 goals and 10 assists at the age of 23 years and 254 days.

"Obviously it feels good to get a win," said Smith in a post-match press conference. "But this is the standard the Thorns have always had. So a win is great, but a win is the expectation — we're hungrier than ever after the way we started."

170 miles up the road, Lumen Field similarly showcased some promising Olympic prospect footwork on Sunday. In Chicago's 2-1 victory over the lagging 13th-place Seattle Reign, striker Mallory Swanson racked up an impressive counterattack assist on fellow forward Ally Schlegel's fourth-minute goal. Swanson went on to find the back of the net herself before halftime, lacing an explosive ball into the top corner in the 31st minute, her second of the season after returning from a lengthy sidelining injury.

Speaking of injuries, fellow USWNT favorites Alex Morgan and Tierna Davidson were not as fortunate as their national squad teammates this weekend. Each exited their club matches early, Morgan with an ankle knock in San Diego's loss to Orlando and Davidson with an apparent hamstring incident early on in Washington's win over Gotham.

LSU takes first-ever NCAA gymnastics title

Kiya Johnson of the LSU Tigers reacts after winning the national championship during the Division I Women's Gymnastics Championships
Gymnast Kiya Johnson celebrates LSU's win at the NCAA Division I Women's Gymnastics Championships. (Photo by C. Morgan Engel/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)

LSU came out on top at the 2024 NCAA women's gymnastics championship in Fort Worth on Saturday, besting Cal, Utah, and Florida to capture their first-ever title.

The Tigers' win was far from a landslide. LSU took the first rotation handily thanks to 2024 All-Around winner Haleigh Bryant's team-leading 9.9375 backed by four additional 9.9+ scores from her teammates. But Utah then responded with three strong beam performances of their own, causing the Red Rocks to slide confidently into second place by the end of the second rotation.

By the halfway point, all four teams fell within .288 points of one another before Utah overtook the pack with a dominant floor showing after three rotations. LSU then went on to ace the beam event with Konnor McClain's meet-leading 9.9625 score, coming away with the highest collective score ever awarded to the event in NCAA championship history. The achievement propelled the Tigers to victory, ensuring them the title after the final rotation.

"This team is full of individuals that have incredible character and integrity and love for each other and all the things you hear from coaches when they sit at a podium like this in a moment of victory, but I promise you it's a real thing," said LSU coach Jay Clark in a post-meet press conference. "I'm just so happy for them."

Contributing to Saturday's atmosphere of excitement was the absence of last year's champion and this year's heavily favored Oklahoma Sooners. Hot off earning the highest team score in NCAA history just last month, the top-ranked Norman squad suffered a shocking loss in the semifinals, where five major mistakes contributed to a third-place finish and a season-low team score of 196.6625.

With Oklahoma out, it was truly anyone's game.

"Every team was out there fighting for their lives — all four teams, it could have gone any of four ways out there," Clark told reporters. "As much as I feel for what happened to Oklahoma in the semifinals, I think it made for a championship that became so packed with emotion because every team out there believed they could do it. It was just tremendous."

LSU is now the eighth program in the sport's history to earn an NCAA women's gymnastic championship.
They share the honor with Georgia, Utah, UCLA, Oklahoma, Alabama, Florida, and Michigan.

Cameron Brink likes Caitlin Clark for 2024 WNBA Rookie of the Year

Cameron Brink poses with Caitlin Clark at 2024 wnba draft in new york
Cameron Brink poses with fellow draftee — and possible WNBA ROY —Caitlin Clark. (Photo by Emily Johnson/NBAE via Getty Images)

Cameron Brink already has her rookie of the year pick for the upcoming WNBA season, and it’s Indiana-bound star Caitlin Clark

In the latest edition of Kelley on the Street, host Kelley O'Hara caught up with Brink in New York hours before the Stanford phenom went No. 2 overall to the Los Angeles Sparks at the 2024 WNBA Draft. When O’Hara asked who would win the WNBA's rookie of the year, she answered without pause.

"Caitlin Clark," she said, while a fan commented that she thought Brink would take home the award. Brink later added that the extra foul granted to WNBA players will be "good for me."

"I hope it’s me," Charisma Osborne, who was later drafted by the Phoenix Mercury, said when asked her ROY prediction. "But, I don’t know — we’ll see."

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