Australian basketball and WNBA star Elizabeth “Liz” Cambage recently reached a boiling point with the alleged “whitewashing” taking place in the promo photos for the upcoming Summer Olympics in Tokyo.
Cambage was outraged when she saw photos of Australian Olympic team members modeling official undergarments from Jockey. The Las Vegas Aces baller took to social media last week to express her frustrations with the campaign’s lack of diversity, in particular its exclusion of people of color.
“Wake the f–k up. I’m not playing these games no more, I’m not,” stated Cambage at the top of her video rant that was shared to social media.
“You can try and twist my words however you want, it’s not going to work. One token POC in a photo is not good enough. … It’s sad. The whitewashing is sad. Your Black athletes lead you everywhere. Indigenous athletes are some of the best athletes we have and y’all don’t use them at all,” she continued.
The 2012 Olympic bronze medalist further lamented her frustrations by sharing the photo in her IG Story along with the caption: “If I’ve said it once I’ve said it a million times HOW AM I MEANT TO REPRESENT A COUNTRY THAT DOESNT EVEN REPRESENT ME #whitewashedaustralia”
Taking things a step further, Cambage then alluded to boycotting the Summer Games.
“Y’all really do anything to remove POCs [people of color] from the forefront when it’s black athletes leading the pack. Until I see you doing more @ausolympicteam imma sit this one out.”
Seeing how much attention Cambage’s comments received on social media, the Australian Olympic Committee issued a statement addressing the lack of diversity in the photos.
The athletes made available to Jockey could and should have better reflected the rich diversity of athletes who represent Australia at the Olympic Games.
The AOC does however have a very proud history of celebrating and promoting diversity in all its forms. From Indigenous reconciliation, people of colour, gender equality and all forms of diversity, the AOC is rightly proud of its record.
Tomorrow the Annual General Meeting will consider a change to the AOC Constitution which will ensure Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island representation on our Athletes’ Commission. Next month we will launch our Reflect Reconciliation Action Plan following lengthy consultation with our Indigenous Advisory Committee.
Our Olympic Team for Tokyo, as it did in Rio, will consist of more women than men.
We proudly defend our track record on diversity and there will be further photoshoots that reflect our broad diversity of athletes.
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. The Olympic Charter commits us all to oppose any form of discrimination.
Former coach Tom Maher of the Australian women’s national team, known as the Opals, also weighed in on the issue.
“There have been no bad intentions,” said Maher to The Australian newspaper. “Was there a homosexual athlete represented? Was there a Chinese Australian athlete mentioned? I mean, where does it end?”
As a whole, reactions to the 2011 WNBA No. 2 pick’s rant were mixed.
“Good I don’t want a racist like her having the privilege of representing our country”
“We luv ya Liz!…you are a person of courage, a leader and a champion.”
By this week Cambage would clarify where she stands on whether she will be in Tokyo in July to join the Opals, one of the 12 women’s basketball national teams to qualify for the Summer Games.
“For everyone wondering so desperately what my decision is for the Opals, I’m in baby… I’m in,” the 6-foot-8 center said in a May 10 Instagram post. “How can I sit out when we have the bodysuits back? I’m going to look so good in it. I’m going to play with my sisters that I’ve been playing with since I was a wee little thing and I’m going to ball out for all those young brown kids back in Australia watching me, baby. I’m going to do it for you.”