Australian basketball star Liz Cambage has criticised promotional photos of Olympians and Paralympians as “whitewashed”, while decrying a lack of diversity in Australian media.
- Liz Cambage hit out in a series of Instagram posts
- An AOC statement said the governing body “acknowledged Liz Cambage’s point”, but defended its “proud history of celebrating diversity”
- Cambage said Australia on the whole has a “diversity and visibility issue”
Cambage posted a series of Instagram stories criticising two photos one from underwear brand Jockey, and another from the Australian Olympic team.
The Jockey ad featured athletes from the Olympics and Paralympics, including swimmers Cameron McEvoy and Ellie Cole, tennis player Heath Davidson, and canoe champion Jess Fox.
“If I’ve said it once I’ve said it a million times. HOW AM I MEANT TO REPRESENT A COUNTRY THAT DOESN’T EVEN REPRESENT ME. #whitewashedaustralia,” the WNBA superstar wrote.
The Jockey ad features Olympians and Paralympians.(Instagram: Liz Cambage
Under a photo of the Olympic uniform unveiling posted by the Australian team, Cambage wrote: “Fake tan doesn’t equal diversity.”
“Y’all really do anything to remove POCs [people of colour] from the forefront when it’s black athletes leading the pack,” she said.
“Until I see y’all doin more @ausolympicteam imma sit this one out.”
Cambage took issue with this photo posted to the Australian Olympic team’s official Instagram page.(Supplied: Twitter – AUS Olympic team
That post led some to speculate whether Cambage was considering a boycott of the Tokyo Games.
In another series of Instagram stories, Cambage went further in her criticism of the AOC and Jockey, and said she would not be speaking to the media about the issue.
“It’s sad, the whitewashing is sad,” she said.
“Your black athletes lead you everywhere Indigenous athletes are some of the best athletes we have, and you don’t use them at all.
“And 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!”
Liz Cambage said Australia as a whole had a “diversity and visibility issue”.(AP: Mark Schiefelbein
The Olympic team photo included Indigenous rugby sevens player Maurice Longbottom, who was wearing an Olympic shirt featuring Aboriginal artwork designed by Yuggera man Paul Fleming, who represented Australia as a boxer at the 2008 Olympics.
Cambage said the media had used Longbottom as a “tool”, said the media suggested she was referring to him with her comment about wearing fake tan, and apologised for him being brought into the affair.
“To Mr Longbottom, I’m sorry that you got caught up in this. I did not think you had fake tan on, I was never saying that, I was saying that for the rest of the photo.
“I’m so sorry from the bottom of my heart that things got twisted today and the media used you as a tool to defer from the real issue that Australia is ignorant.”
The Australian Olympic Committee “acknowledged Liz Cambage’s point with regard to this particular photo shoot”, but also stressed its “proud history of celebrating diversity in all its forms”.
“The athletes made available to Jockey could and should have better reflected the rich diversity of athletes who represent Australia,” the AOC statement read.
“From Indigenous reconciliation, people of colour, gender equality and all forms of diversity, the AOC is rightly proud of its record.
“We proudly defend our track record on diversity and there will be further photoshoots that reflect our broad diversity of athletes.”
When asked about diversity in its brand ambassadors, a Jockey representative said Jockey is proud to support our Australian sporting heroes, in both Olympic and Paralympic athletes”.
“We also work with a diverse range of brand ambassadors across Australia and New Zealand, the statement read.
But the Las Vegas Aces centre said “words don’t mean anything to me”, and said the country on the whole had a “diversity and visibility issue”.
“Asian, black, Indigenous wherever you are from in this whole world, it’s important to see people who look like you in the media. And white Australia, you would never understand that, because you’ve never had to deal with it,” she said.
“One token POC in a photo is not good enough.
“I shouldn’t have to hold the Australian Olympic Committee and their partners accountable from the other side of the world.”
The rescheduled Olympic Games in Tokyo kick off on July 21, with the women’s basketball program starting on July 26.