Australian women’s basketball player Liz Cambage threatened to boycott this summer’s Olympic Games in Tokyo after a promotional photo shoot for her country omitted any Olympians of color — including herself.
Cambage vented on Instagram that the Australian Olympic Committee’s photo shoot was “whitewashed.” The photo showcased several white athletes sporting apparel for sponsor Jockey.
Cambage, who plays for the WNBA’s Las Vegas Aces and was a key member of Australia’s 2012 Olympic bronze medalist team, felt the image was representative of a bigger problem.
“If I’ve said it once I’ve said it a million times,” she began on her Instragram rant. “HOW AM I MEANT TO REPRESENT A COUNTRY THAT DOESNT EVEN REPRESENT ME #whitewashedaustralia.”
Cambage added: “Y’all really do anything to remove POCs (people of colour) from the forefront when it’s black athletes leading the pack. Until I see you doing more @ausolympicteam imma sit this one out.”
In a public statement, the Australian Olympic Committee acknowledged Cambage’s comments, apologized and said the Jockey photo shoot “should have better reflected the rich diversity of athletes who represent Australia at the Olympic Games.”
“We proudly defend our track record on diversity and there will be further photoshoots that reflect our broad diversity of athletes,” the statement added.
Cambage directed a portion of her frustration with Jockey, writing Friday on social media: “The whitewashing is sad. …Jockey Australia, you knew exactly what you were doing. You need me to send you a list of all the POC athletes that are trying to make it to the Olympics right now that you could use? I can do it!”
Messages made by USA TODAY Sports to Jockey were not immediately returned.
Former Australian women’s national team coach Tom Maher told The Australian that Cambage was “making a big deal out of pretty much nothing.”
“There have been no bad intentions,” he said. “Was there a homosexual athlete represented? Was there a Chinese Australian athlete mentioned? I mean, where does it end?”
Cambage, who was born in London to a Nigerian father and Australian mother, took a shot at a previous photo of Australian Olympians — all but one athlete white in the image while wearing the country’s uniforms. She wrote on Instagram: “Also fake tan doesn’t equal diversity.” One of the athletes was rugby player Maurice Longbottom, who is Indigenous.
Cambage later said on Instagram: “To Mr. Longbottom, I’m sorry that you got caught up in this. I did not think you had a fake tan on. I was never saying that. I was saying that for the rest of the photo. One POC in a photo is not good enough for me.”
Cambage, the No. 2 pick in the 2011 WNBA draft, currently holds the WNBA’s single-game scoring record with her 53-point performance against the New York Liberty in July of 2018. The 6-foot-8 center is a three-time All-Star and took a five-year hiatus from the league to focus on her overseas career.