Australian basketball star Liz Cambage on Tuesday withdrew a threat to boycott the Tokyo Olympics over “whitewashed” team photo shoots, but vowed to remain outspoken on social justice issues.
The 29-year-old, a two-time Olympian who is preparing for the new WNBA season with the Las Vegas Aces, last week took issue with two promotional pictures showing predominantly white Australian Olympic athletes.
The first photo shoot organised by the team’s apparel sponsor, Jockey, included no people of colour, while indigenous rugby player Maurice Longbottom was the only non-white face in the group pictures in the second.
“HOW AM I MEANT TO REPRESENT A COUNTRY THAT DOESNT EVEN REPRESENT ME #whitewashedaustralia,” Cambage posted on Instagram, concluding “until I see you doing more @ausolympicteam imma sit this one out”.
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Cambage, who has a Nigerian father and Australian mother, backtracked in a post on the same platform Tuesday, saying “I’m in baby, I’m in”.
“I’m going to play with my sisters that I’ve been playing with since I was a wee little thing and imma ball out for all those young brown kids back in Australia watching me,” she said.
Cambage’s threat received a mixed response in Australia, with some applauding her for taking a stance while others, including former tennis star Todd Woodbridge, accused her of “disrespecting” fellow athletes.
She added in her Instagram story: “There are two people in this world. There are the people who have the balls to stand up and say something and make change — that’s me. I was born for this.
“I am such a narcissist, I am such a psycho b***h that all the hate that you give me, I love it … it makes me go harder, it makes me push for more.
“The second type of people in this world — that’s the people that are intimated and scared and insecure and hide behind fake profiles and talk s**t because you’re too scared to do anything.
“I’m out here talking my s**t with my big-a*** mouth, being a big-old b***h, making change, baby.
“Thankyou for all the messages of love and thankyou for all the messages of hate because the hate turns me on and the love lifts me up.
“I’m not going to stop for no one or nothing. Have a great day.”
The Australian Olympic Committee conceded Cambage had a point and said future photo shoots would reflect its diversity of athletes.
Cambage, part of the Australian team that won bronze at the 2012 London Olympics, was unfazed by criticism and said she would continue to speak out.
“I’m such a psycho b***h that all the hate that you give me turns me on, it makes me go harder and push for more,” she said, vowing to use her voice to “make change”.