This past week, a season already filled with ups and downs took another unexpected turn. In an article written by the Daily Telegraph, several Australian players and Nigerian players claimed Liz Cambage referred to Nigerian players as "monkeys" and said, "go back to your third world country." This incident occurred during a scrimmage at UNLV in preparation for the Olympics when Cambage was still a member of the Australian team.
Cambage went to Instagram to respond to the report. She claims she "did not use the racial slur towards the Nigerian team" but did take responsibility for her involvement in the incident. She also referenced walking away from the incident due to her mental and physical health concerns.
The response from Cambage did not satisfy the WNBA community at large. If what was alleged wasn't said, then what was? And if you have taken responsibility for your involvement, what was that involvement? What did you do? The vagueness of the specifics doesn't help Cambage when what she is being accused of is very specific and quoted.
After this report and Cambage's response, the Sparks still had to play a game. They defeated the Lynx 85-83, winning a close game, something the team has struggled to do in the past. After the game, Cambage did not speak with the media. That didn't stop media members from asking questions about the incident to her Spark teammate Nneka Ogwumike. "As a team, we talked about it, and we addressed it. That's really what it is. Anything else is really not anyone else's business unless Liz comes out and says what she wants to say".
Will these comments calm the uproar from WNBA Twitter? Probably not, but it does help that the team discussed this issue prior to her arrival and agreed to have her join the team after hearing the information on what transpired. They have more information than what has been reported, and it's good to know they addressed this prior to this report.
I'm not sure of what exactly happened. Physical attack on Cambage, fear for one's physical and mental health, and racial slurs being shouted out all sound like an intense and awful situation. What I do know is that words matter. If what Cambage has been accused of saying is true, that is a harmful, hateful, and racist thing to say. It has no place in our society or in sport, and those kinds of words can cause damage to people of color.