Credit: Steph Chambers/Getty Images/AFP
Credit Steph Chambers/Getty Images/AFP

WNBA star Liz Cambage is accused of directing a racial slur toward members of the Nigerian national team during a scrimmage before the 2021 Tokyo Olympics.

Cambage, a four-time WNBA All-Star, signed with the Sparks earlier this year. She was selected No. 2 overall by the Tulsa Shock in the 2011 draft.

Anonymous Nigerian players claim the Australian and Los Angeles Sparks center called them "monkeys" and told them to "go back to your Third World country" during a closed-door scrimmage.

Cambage, 30, reportedly made the comments during an altercation during the scrimmage. She was allegedly seen elbowing Nigeria's Victoria Macaulay in the head and slapping another player.

"That's what I recall, the term monkeys, yes. And go back to where you came from," a Nigerian player told the Daily Telegraph (Australia).

"She definitely did use [word] 'monkeys' or 'monkey'. I was on the court. She definitely said go back to your Third World country," another anonymous player added. "I didn't hear it, but her teammates confirmed she called us monkeys."

The incident led Australian officials to halt the game just before the end of the second quarter. Cambage, whose father is Nigerian, apologized to the African team after the incident, which reportedly wasn't well-received by the players.

"I think it was bulls--," one player said via the outlet. "I don't think it was a sincere apology."

"Although she's Australian, we knew she was half Nigerian. So, before then, it was like she was one of us," another Nigerian player added. "That was another thing to cut deep, for her to do that and not show any remorse at all."

Cambage later announced she was pulling out of the coronavirus-delayed Tokyo Olympics, citing her mental and physical health. This Monday, the WNBA player provided her first public comment on the incident, which refutes the allegation she was racist toward the Nigerian team.

She claims her elbow "unintentionally" collected the Nigerian player while also revealing that she wanted to sit out the game for mental health reasons.

"The incident that took place during the pre-Olympic scrimmage with the Nigerian team was handled privately, almost a year ago," the Instagram statement read.

"I am very disappointed and hurt by the events and accusations that have unfolded in the Australian media. The recount of what took place is inaccurate and misleading. I did not use the racial slur towards the Nigerian team that has been circulating.

After I unintentionally fouled a Nigerian player on the court, I was then physically assaulted by this player on the sideline of my bench. I was hit in the face and pushed to the ground, but I walked away. Prior to the game, I asked to sit out because I was concerned about my mental and physical health, which I have addressed publicly," she argued.

Cambage also wrote that the scrimmage was not officiated by professional referees.

"They could have managed and prioritized both teams' safety, but this is not an excuse or justification for the events that unfolded.

"I have taken responsibility and accountability for my involvement in what occurred. I genuinely apologized to the Nigerian team, and once again, I am sorry that these events are being rehashed. I truly hope that I can move forward from this incident and apply actionable effort to be my best self," Cambage concluded.

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