Backlash continues to be fired at WNBA star Liz Cambage for recent comments she made about the ‘whitewashed’ photos of the Australian Olympic and Paralympic team, with former Australian NBA player Andrew Bogut now joining in on the war of words.
The controversy began last week when an image was released showing 2021 Australian Olympians and Paralympians in sponsored outfits from Jockey, seemingly without featuring any athletes of colour.
Rugby player Maurice Longbottom was the only Indigenous Olympian in the images released.
Cambage took to social media to highlight the lack of representation and diversity in the photo.
“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,” the 29-year-old posted via Instagram.
“Australia, wake the f**k up. I’m not playing these games no more, I’m not.
“It’s sad, the whitewashing is sad. Your black athletes lead you everywhere. Indigenous athletes are some of the best athletes we have. An [sic] y’all don’t use them at all.”
The Australian Olympic Committee followed soon after with a statement acknowledging Cambage’s point but also defending their record of celebrating diversity.
“We proudly defend our track record on diversity and there will be further photoshoots that reflect our broad diversity of athletes,” the AOC said.
“With regard to this photoshoot, 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.”
Some were quick to fire back at Cambage for her comments, with former Australian women’s basketball coach Tom Maher saying her comments were inappropriate.
“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’,” he said.
Former NBA player Andrew Bogut further criticised Cambage during a podcast appearance, saying her “counting colour tones” in photos is poor form.
“Some of our most prominent People of Colour that play for Australia, Patty Mills and Ben Simmons, they’re playing in the best league in the world right now, they can’t even come to that photoshoot,” Bogut said.
“There’s a lot of different factors that go into it, this is made out like it was a blatant effort to whitewash the photo, to make Australia look white.”
This didn’t stop Cambage from responding, highlighting that there’s been a rivalry between the two basketball players for quite some time.
“Mr Bogut’s obsession with me [is] so strange, it’s been like 10 years of you speaking on my name,” she said.
There has been support for Cambage speaking out on the matter, with former rugby player Peter FitzSimons saying he was on her side.
“On this issue, she’s right. The AOC is wrong, as acknowledged by John Coates, who apologised and the rest of it,” he said.
“Doing it the way she did it, she’s had it up to here, she doesn’t want to do this anymore so she’s put it out there. We’re all talking about it and she’ll achieve change by being strong on it.”
Cambage has since confirmed she will still compete in Tokyo.
“I’m going to play with my sisters that I’ve been playing with since I was a wee little thing and Imma [sic] ball out for all those young brown kids back in Australia watching me, baby. I’m gonna do it for you,” she said.
By Teisha Cloos