Australian basketball legend Andrew Gaze says it is 'hard to accept' former Opals star Liz Cambage's version of events surrounding the altercation with the Nigerian team prior to the Tokyo Olympics.
Cambage eventually sat out the Tokyo Olympics citing mental health concerns, however more detail about the practice game controversy has since come to light.
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A detailed report from the Daily Telegraph on Sunday cited multiple players, on condition of anonymity, from the Nigerian and Australian teams who said Cambage had used the term 'monkeys' in the midst of the altercation.
The report also alleged before the match, Cambage, whose father is Nigerian, had told a Nigeria player she wished she was playing for them because her Australian teammates were racists.
The tension was sparked when Cambage elbowed Nigeria's Victoria Macaulay so hard she left a gash in her neck.
It prompted a physical retaliation, before Cambage unleashed verbally.
Taking to Instagram to respond to the claims, the 30-year-old said the elbow she threw had been 'unintentional', and that other accounts of what had happened were untrue.
The report said that after a timeout following the elbow, players were surprised to see Cambage return to the court.
In the ensuing play, Cambage again got tangled up with an opponent, but this time allegedly slapped her in the face - which prompted the Nigerian player to punch her from behind, leading to the aforementioned slurs.
The game was subsequently called off before half time, with the Opals reportedly in shock afterwards.
Andrew Gaze. stunned by Liz Cambage's different version of events
Speaking on SEN on Monday afternoon, Gaze said it was a sad situation overall, one which would detract from Cambage's legacy as a player and also leave lasting impacts on the Opals.
“I think that her comments were highly hurtful, indicating she did not believe she had been given a safe environment and one where she felt supported and loved and cared for," he said.
“As I said a few weeks ago, I find them offensive, because I know how much she was supported.
“This is one that's a really sad situation, because an athlete who could potentially go down as one of the greatest basketball players, not just of Australian history, but of world history, and because of some conflict that’s been there and perhaps that conflict leading to her version of events... which is now going to detract from her legacy.
"And it should be a legacy that we all, as a nation, should be proud of because the nation has done an amazing job of supporting her from a very young age."
Gaze was also troubled by Cambage's version of events, saying it was clear from now widely published video of the initial incident that her elbow on Macauley was not 'unintentional'.
The NBL legend said it was 'highly unlikely' Cambage would play for Australia again given the damage that had already been done as a result of the situation.
“For her to say that she did not intentionally hit (the opposition player), I don’t know how you could possibly say that when you look at the vision, the vision is there for everyone to see, it’s a very, very vicious blow that she strikes to the Nigerian player.
“I don’t know how you could argue that was unintentional, if anyone knows anything about basketball they’d see it’s a very, very high elbow, and yes she’s tall, (but) it’s a vicious one that caused a laceration to the Nigerian girl's neck.
“Others have got a different understanding and different version of what took place, and unfortunately, with this statement that Liz has made, once again, based on my understanding of the statement, she is failing to recognise that others thought she did things differently.
“So it saddens me because this is someone that is highly talented, had contributed a significant amount with her performances to the Opals, and one that we love to embrace and with this type of response and the language she used is unacceptable by anyone and it’s sad.”
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