Australian basketball star Liz Cambage has blasted the lack of visible diversity in her country’s ‘whitewashed’ Olympics promotional photos and said she will boycott the Tokyo games.
On Friday the 29-year-old, who plays for US team Las Vegas Aces in the WNBA, shared two of the images of athletes approved by the Australian Olympic Committee, alongside critical comments blasting them for a lack of diversity.
A few hours later, Cambage hit out at her team’s officials on social media site Instagram.
‘If I’ve said it once I’ve said it a million times. How am I meant to represent a country that doesn’t even represent me?’ she wrote.
The comments stirred up a storm of media coverage and comments online, sparking another fiery response from Cambage.
‘Australia wake the f**k up. I’m not playing these games anymore,’ Cambage said on her Instagram story hours later on Friday evening.
Cambage continued her tirade on Saturday morning with another series of Instagram stories responding to her critics.
‘I do not care for a white man’s opinion on racial issues. Never have, never will,’ she wrote over a video of her sticking her tongue out.
Cambage (pictured) called upon the Olympic committee to celebrate more diversity among athletes
Cambage let fly on social media on Friday saying Australia’s ‘ignorance’ on racial issues was ’embarrassing’
‘Especially when the comments come from one of the most abusive coaches I have ever had and past players no one cares about,’ she added.
Another Saturday morning post showed a Facebook message exchange with a friend who offered to track down the IP addresses of trolls sending her abuse.
‘Keep the threats coming, boys,’ she captioned the screenshot.
Decorated Australian women’s basketball coach Tom Maher said on Friday it was inappropriate for her to ‘make a big deal about pretty much nothing’.
‘Was there a homosexual athlete represented? Was there a Chinese Australian athlete mentioned? I mean, where does it end?’ he told Australian outlet The Daily Telegraph.
‘If I was coach, I wouldn’t entertain any threats at all. If she wants to come, she can come, but if she told me she was going to boycott I’d say “good luck, see you later”.’
Maher coached Australia’s women’s team to bronze at the 1996 Olympics and to silver at the Sydney event four years later.
There is no suggestion from Daily Mail Australia that Maher is the coach Cambage was referring to in her post.
Cambage continued her tirade on Saturday morning with another series of Instagram stories responding to her critics
‘If I’ve said it once I’ve said it a million times. HOW AM I MEANT TO REPRESENT A COUNTRY THAT DOESNT EVEN REPRESENT ME,’ she wrote on social media with the hashtag ‘whitewashedaustralia’
The two-time Olympian earlier said she would ‘sit-out’ the Tokyo Games until she felt the inclusion issue was addressed.
One of the images shared by Cambage was an ad from Olympic partner and underwear supplier Jockey, which featured white athletes.
The other was an Australian uniform reveal featuring Indigenous Rugby Sevens player Maurice Longbottom which she captioned: ‘fake tan doesn’t equal diversity.’
Following backlash, Cambage said on Friday evening she was clearly not talking about the rugby star.
‘I know who Maurice Longbottom is. I wasn’t saying he had fake tan on – I’m talking about the rest of the photo. One token person of colour in a photo is not good enough AOC,’ she said.
‘The whitewashing is sad. Your black and Indigenous athletes lead [your sporting achievements] and you don’t use them at all.
‘And Jockey Australia you knew exactly what you were doing. You need me to send you a list of all the POC athletes that are trying to make it to the Olympics. That you could use? I could do it and I’m not even in the country.’
The Australian Olympic Committee issued an apology on Friday but Cambage then questioned why she needed to hold them to account from the other side of the world.
Cambage (pictured) has played internationally since 2011 most recently for the Las Vegas Aces and also has modelling contracts
She added an apology was easy but demanded tangible action from Olympic bosses to represent all races.
‘Maurice Longbottom I’m sorry from the bottom of my heart the media used you as a tool to defer from the real issue that Australia is so ignorant it’s embarrassing,’ she said.
‘We have a diversity issue, we have an inclusion issue, and we have a visibility issue for kids growing up that don’t see people like them on tv anywhere.
‘And Australia, if you have an issue with my words, you are the issue and you can kiss my black a**’.
She also shared footage of Cathy Freeman’s famous 400m win at the Sydney Olympics in 2000 to point out that one of Australia’s greatest sporting moments involved a woman of colour.
Cambage, 29, has represented Australia for the past two Olympic Games but claims she will ‘sit out’ of this year’s event because there was not enough diversity in the promotional photo shoots
Cambage (pictured in February 2020) has played in the past two Olympic Games for Australia
The AOC said in their apology statement they ‘acknowledged’ the point made by the Cambage.
‘The athletes made available to Jockey could and should have better reflected the rich diversity of athletes who represent Australia at the Olympic Games,’ the statement read.
‘The AOC does however have a very proud history of celebrating and promoting diversity in all its forms. From Indigenous reconciliation, people of colour, gender equality and all forms of diversity, the AOC is rightly proud of its record.’
The committee said there would be further photo shoots to reflect a broader diversity of athletes.
‘With regard to this photo shoot however, we acknowledge while proud of the athletes involved and proud of our association with Jockey, it should have better reflected the diversity of our Team,’ a spokesperson said.
Cambage is recognised as one of Australia’s best basketballers and plays for the Las Vegas Aces
Cambage is recognised as one of Australia’s best basketballers and has been vocal about racial equality in the past.
During the Black Lives Matter movement she called upon Australians to be more supportive and educated on the issue.
‘Until you start teaching the real history of Australia, until you start respecting the traditional land owners of this country, you do not care about black lives,’ she said.
‘Until I see more diversity and more inclusion in this country, you do not care about black lives. Go delete the square.’
She also said she ‘didn’t feel her worth’ until she left Australia after dealing with years of racism.
Cambage helped the Australian Opals win bronze at the 2012 London Olympics and gold at the 2018 Commonwealth games.
She was born in London to a Nigerian father and Australian mother, and moved to Coffs Harbour as a child after her parents split.
AOC STATEMENT IN FULL
The AOC acknowledges Liz Cambage’s point with regard to this particular photo shoot.
The athletes made available to Jockey could and should have better reflected the rich diversity of athletes who represent Australia at the Olympic Games.
The AOC does however have a very proud history of celebrating and promoting diversity in all its forms. From Indigenous reconciliation, people of colour, gender equality and all forms of diversity, the AOC is rightly proud of its record.
Tomorrow the Annual General Meeting will consider a change to the AOC Constitution which will ensure Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island representation on our Athletes’ Commission. Next month we will launch our Reflect Reconciliation Action Plan following lengthy consultation with our Indigenous Advisory Committee.
Our Olympic Team for Tokyo, as it did in Rio, will consist of more women than men.
We proudly defend our track record on diversity and there will be further photo shoots that reflect our broad diversity of athletes.
With regard to this photo shoot however, we acknowledge while proud of the athletes involved and proud of our association with Jockey, it should have better reflected the diversity of our Team.
The Olympic Charter commits us all to oppose any form of discrimination.