Australian basketball legend Andrew Gaze has exploded over the suggestion from Liz Cambage that she wasn’t supported and was even harmed during her time in the national set-up, labeling her comments “highly offensive”, “grossly unfair” and “disgusting”.
Ex-Opal Cambage is back in the headlines after an allegation of a racist remark received confirmation from former national captain Jenna O’Hea.
When asked on the ABC’s offsiders program if Cambage had said to members of the Nigerian basketball team ahead of the Tokyo Olympics, “go back to your third-world country”, O’Hea replied: “that is all 100 per cent correct”.
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Cambage responded to the allegation in a Twitter post, writing: “The truth will always come to light, and it ain’t even dawn yet”.
Days before O’Hea’s comments on the offsiders program, Cambage – now with the Los Angeles Sparks – had told the ABC that the support she had received in the WNBA hadn’t been extended to her by Basketball Australia.
“I’m living my best life,” Cambage said.
“I’m supported, I’m protected on a level that the Opals or the Australian team never gave to me.
“My heart lies with those who want to protect me and those who want me to be the best I can be, and I never felt that at the Opals at all.
“So, yeah, I’m good.”
The comments left Gaze, a former member of the Basketball Australia board, incensed.
“Above and beyond that (the Nigeria comments), the thing that really, really grates at me is when she makes the comments to say she feels supported in Los Angeles at a level that wasn’t there with the Australian team and the suggestion that She was never supported by Australia, the Opals or Basketball Australia. That is highly offensive,” Gaze said on SEN radio.
“I have been in a privileged position to be on the board of Basketball Australia during much of her time and I had a long conversation with her directly and, unfortunately, I couldn’t have that conversation just one on one. Her agent had to be there.
“We went through some of the issues that were clearly apparent issues about where (her) priorities need to be, and there was a complete lack of understanding that, ‘well, maybe I’m wrong, but I can see another side’.
“(She) refused to see that her behavior was not there.
“I don’t think it’s appropriate (to get into specifics), but just to say that was a conversation I was disappointed (in). I couldn’t even have that conversation with her personally.
“I was asked to do it, I was asked to do it as a figure in basketball, someone on the board who had an understanding of the issues the board were facing and her.
“It didn’t worry me at the time. ‘OK, I don’t care, I’m 100 per cent transparent here, I’m trying to find a solution to the conflict that had arisen’.”
Gauze was not done.
“In addition to that, there was some behavior that Liz had that under any reasonable judgment, there would have been some significant repercussions,” Gaze added.
“She was supported – not just by me, but by others along the way… to say that she wasn’t supported is unfair, it is grossly unfair, and I have great sympathy and compassion for where she was at that point in time, and there may have been some confusion about where (she) needs to be, her schedule, her timetable – all those things that are there.
“But the bottom line (is) she made some decisions that didn’t support her teammates. Yet, despite that, her teammates supported her during that time.
“Now the problem is, in her mind, she didn’t think she was letting anyone down, and I’m talking about whether you show up to prepare to represent your country.”
Gaze added that although Cambage may have endured a rough patch, that wasn’t a reflection on Basketball Australia’s actions.
“There might be times when she has suffered some hardship. I don’t know what they are, but they might be there. I’m not saying they’re not,” Gaze said.
Why Liz Cambage left Opals
“But the suggestion on this particular incident and others that her teammates, her coaches, Basketball Australia or anyone wasn’t supporting her – that is offensive. That is offensive to people who are going out of their way to try and put in place a system where she can actually perform to her best – and it takes two.”
Gaze is a former Boomers captain whose passion for Australian basketball is held in towering regard.
“You don’t get paid for representing your country, or very, very little. That’s not your sole source of income,” Gaze said.
“It’s about honour, it’s about privilege, it’s about a sense of responsibility, it’s about looking at your life and seeing how other people have provided you a privileged opportunity to perform at the highest level… when you don’t respect that and , in fact, when you go the other way and say these people have actually harmed me – that is disgusting behavior by her.
“It is offensive to me, it’s offensive to anyone who’s represented our country that that’s her position.”
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