'Free to speak': Liz Cambage won't be silenced at Tokyo Olympic Games

·5-min read
In this photo, Australian Olympic basketball star Liz Cambage chats to the media.
Australian Olympic Games figures support Liz Cambage's right to speak her mind in Tokyo. Pic: Getty

The Chef de Mission for the Australian Olympic team has given his backing for outspoken basketball star Liz Cambage to keep fighting for what she believes in after a month of dominating the sporting headlines.

Opals and WNBA superstar Cambage sparked backlash earlier in the month when she threatened to boycott the Tokyo Games over an Australian team photo shoot that she described as being "white-washed" and not racially diverse.

'CAN'T STOP LAUGHING': 'Embarrassing' act mocked by NBA fans

'HE WAS SPECIAL': Ben Simmons steers Sixers to playoff triumph

'COLD-BLOODED': NBA erupts over Trae Young crowd-silencing stunner

Cambage received plenty of support and also copped her fair share of criticism over the issue, before later backflipping on her boycott threat and declaring that she would be on the plane to Tokyo.

The 29-year-old - who took part in London 2012 and Rio 2016 - is the most experienced member of the 12-strong Australian squad which was named on Wednesday.

The imposing centre and Rebecca Allen will link with the national side for the first time in 16 months at a pre-Games camp in Las Vegas, which will serve as the Opals' final match practice before flying to Japan.

Cambage, who was born in London to an Australian mother and a Nigerian father, has been a vocal advocate regarding racism, discrimination and other issues.

There had been speculation as to whether the 29-year-old would compete in Tokyo after publicly condemning a photo shoot of Australian Olympians she slammed over its lack of racial diversity.

Australia's Chef de Mission Ian Chesterman is yet to speak with Cambage but conceded "she made a valid point" and vowed to support the Aussie star's right to speak her mind.

"It's important that athletes feel free to speak about issues close to their heart. We fully support that," Chesterman told AAP.

"It's not something we, as an Olympic movement, want to silence."

Despite initial fears about Cambage's participation at the Games, Opals coach Sandy Brondello and captain Jenna O'Hea made it clear on Wednesday they felt her commitment was never in doubt as Australia chases an elusive gold medal.

Brondello, a four-time Olympian, noted Cambage replied with "a very quick yes" when she sought clarification regarding Tokyo 2021.

"There was never any pressure, I'm not going to force anybody to play for her country," Brondello said.

"She loves the Opals, these are all her sisters ... she's super motivated and ready to win that gold.

"Liz is passionate about a lot of things off the court and we totally support that."

Cambage made more headlines this week after calling out a rival coach for making a disrespectful remark about her weight during an WNBA match.

Connecticut Sun coach Curt Miller is seen here alongside a photo of Liz Cambage.
Connecticut Sun coach Curt Miller was forced to apologise after a disrespectful remark about Liz Cambage's weight. Pic: Getty

Coach sanctioned for Cambage remark

Connecticut Sun coach Curt Miller was forced to apologise for the incident which led to him being slapped with a fine and suspension. 

"Something went down in today's game and I need to speak on it, because if there's one thing about me is that I will never let a man disrespect me. EVER. Ever. Ever. Ever. Especially a little white one. 

"So to the coach of Connecticut — I'm sorry, little sir man, I do not know your name. But the next time you try to call out a referee trying to get a call being like, 'C'mon, she's 300 pounds,' I'm going to need you to get it right baby. Because I'm 6-8. 

"I just double-checked because I love to be correct and get facts. I'm weighing 235 pounds (107kg) and I'm very proud of being a big bi***, big body, big Benz, baby. So don't ever try to disrespect me or another woman in the league. 

"Anyway to that little man — whole little, tiny, like where is you? — stop trying to project your insecurities baby. 

"Pick up the phone, call the pysch, because you projecting some bulls*** right now. And next time you try to disrespect me, remember, I'm 235. 

"It might seem like 300 pounds to your little ass. I'm 235, baby." 

Pictured here, Australian Opals basketball coach Sandy Brondello talks to her players.
Opals coach Sandy Brondello has backed Cambage to continue fighting for what she believes in. Pic: Getty

Brondello - whose Phoenix Mercury next face Cambage's Las Vegas Aces in the WNBA - applauded her compatriot for standing up for herself.

"The consequences were felt there," Brondello said.

"If someone treats her badly in that regard, why shouldn't she stand up?"

Australia were knocked out at the quarter-final stage of Rio, having collected silver or bronze at the preceding five Olympics.

The Opals, ranked second in the world and silver medallists at the 2018 World Cup, have a clear goal in mind ahead of an Olympic campaign that begins on July 27.

"We're capable of that gold medal," Brondello said.

O'Hea, Katie Ebzery, Cayla George, Tessa Lavey, Leilani Mitchell, Stephanie Talbot, Marianna Tolo will all be competing at their second Olympics.

Allen, Tess Madgen, Eziyoda Magbegor and Alanna Smith have been selected in their first Olympics side.

Opals squad for Olympics: Rebecca Allen, Liz Cambage, Katie Ebzery, Cayla George, Tessa Lavey, Tess Madgen, Ezi Magbegor, Leilani Mitchell, Jenna O'Hea, Alanna Smith, Stephanie Talbot, Marianna Tolo.

with AAP

Watch 'Mind Games', the new series from Yahoo Sport Australia exploring the often brutal mental toil elite athletes go through in pursuit of greatness:

Click here to sign up to our newsletter for all the latest and breaking stories from Australia and around the world.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting