Aussie basketball legend Andrew Bogut says the slur Liz Cambage said to a Nigerian opponent was actually much worse than what has been claimed
Former Opals captain Jenna O’Hea brought the scandal back into headlines on Sunday when she declared Cambage will never play for the Opals again.
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Cambage remains the biggest star in Australian women’s basketball and at the age of 30 still has the opportunity to play at the 2024 Olympics in Paris.
However, O’Hea says the door has been slammed shut on the WNBA All-Star.
O’Hea’s strong comments on ABC Offsiders also publicly confirmed rumors about what Cambage said during the lead-up to the Tokyo Olympics that saw her ostracized by her teammates following a practice game against Nigeria.
Cambage missed Australia’s 2021 Olympic campaign in Tokyo, pulling out of the squad citing mental health reasons following alleged incidents during a training camp — including a blow-up with Nigeria during practice and allegations of breaking the team’s bio-secure bubble in Las Vegas.
An investigation by Basketball Australia saw Cambage issued with a formal reprimand and the Opals never recovered from her late withdrawal, as they bombed out of the Olympics in the quarter-finals.
When asked to name the comment Cambage made, O’Hea said on Sunday it was: “Go back to your third world country”.
Bogut has declared on Monday the truth is that Cambage’s comment was more “disgusting” than what O’Hea said.
“You’ve just got the PG version, there was much more than that – I’m just glad someone’s come out and said it,” Bogut told 2GB radio.
“It was beyond despicable.
“There’s much more in there that you can’t say on radio… there’s some other words that you can never repeat, that I’d never even say, to be honest with you.”
It is not the first time Bogut has suggested Cambage’s comment was inexcusable.
“They were words that you wouldn’t dare repeat. They were horrendous,” he said before the Tokyo Olympics.
“You just can’t excuse those kinds of behaviors, mental health or not.
“That doesn’t excuse you making the comments that I’ve heard, off the record, (which are) are absolutely … disgusting.
“It never gives you an excuse to just go out there and make those kinds of comments, in my opinion.”
The pair have repeatedly clashed on social media, including last year during another controversy involving Cambage when she called out an Australian team photo for a lack of diversity among the athletes featured.
Cambage said at the time Bogut was “obsessed” with her.
Last week Cambage, who is playing her first season with the Los Angeles Sparks in the WNBA, hit out at the Opals, telling the ABC she “never” felt supported and protected while in the national team.
Asked to respond to those claims while appearing on ABC’s offsiders program on Sunday, O’Hea said: “I can hold my head up high and say that I always loved her, always cared for her, always supported her, always had her back.
“I think that is her reality and I think listeners and watchers out there can believe who they want to believe.
“But I can hold my head up high.”
offsiders host Kellie Underwood then spoke about the incident with Nigeria, asking for confirmation from O’Hea about what actually happened.
Underwood: “It’s never really emerged what happened but I’ve had it confirmed from a few sources. Is it correct that you were playing Nigeria and Liz Cambage had her feathers ruffled and she turned to them and said, ‘Go back to your third world country’?
“Of course, (Australian basketballer) Ezi Magbegor is originally Nigerian, a Nigerian who’s now living in Australia and playing for your team. And as a result there was a brawl that erupted, and since then you haven’t spoken to her?”
Oh hea: “That is all 100 per cent correct.”
Caroline Wilson: “Will she ever play for Australia again do you think?”
Oh hea: “No.”
Elaborating on the situation with Cambage, O’Hea added: “I really want the media to focus on those players who want to be Opals and who want to represent Australia and who are really dedicated to Australia and I think that’s really important.
“Everyone has done more than enough (to try and keep Cambage playing for Australia). We have sacrificed a lot to try and keep her in the program. You know, she doesn’t want to be here anymore and that’s her choice and we need to move on without her.”
Cambage appeared to respond to reports of O’Hea’s revelations overnight Sunday, tweeting: “The truth will always come to light, and it ain’t even dawn yet.”
In July last year, Cambage called out “lies” that had surrounded her Olympic withdrawal, saying she was at “breaking point” with her mental health before deciding to pull the pin.
“I’m pretty annoyed at all the fake news and the lies I’m seeing floating around in news articles and being shown and being asked about,” she said in an Instagram video at the time.
“Yeah, things got heated in the Nigeria game. There was a physical altercation and there were words exchanged but I’m hearing things that aren’t true at all, flying around from people in Australia and America which is crazy.
“Everything that happened and everything that was said is on film. I know what happened and I do not appreciate the lies and people constantly trying to tear me down. Hating on me won’t bring you love, at all.”
O’Hea said earlier this month she is still yet to move on fully from the drama surrounding Cambage and the devastating impact it had on the Opals at last year’s Olympics.
“That was huge and everything that surrounded it was really big,” O’Hea told SEN’s This Is Your Journey.
“To be honest, I saw a sports psych for months afterwards trying to deal with it all and I do think that’s part of the reason why I have retired.
“It took a huge toll on me and was really difficult … I don’t think I’ll ever fully process it to be honest.
“It’s still pretty raw. I don’t talk about it very often unless it’s with my sports psych. If you asked me a couple of months ago, I would have been in a ball of tears.
“It’s going to take time for me. Everyone heals at a different rate and gets over things in a different way, so that’s something I’m still dealing with today.
“I think it’s going to take a lot more time.”