BA, Opals back Cambage's anti-racism stand

Basketball Australia have joined with the Opals, led by Liz Cambage and captain Jenna O'Hea, in making a formal stand against racism.

Australian basketball player LIZ CAMBAGE poses during a portait shoot at Brighton Beach in Melbourne, Australia.
Australian basketball player LIZ CAMBAGE poses during a portait shoot at Brighton Beach in Melbourne, Australia. Picture: Racing and Sports

An emotional Liz Cambage says she's relieved that her Opals teammates and Basketball Australia have got behind her stance on racism and discrimination after so long feeling like a lone voice.

The women's national team and Basketball Australia (BA) on Wednesday announced a new initiative designed to help stamp out racial injustice within the sport.

It came after the Opals declared last month they would not train until the national organisation made a public commitment.

"For the first time in my life this isn't me pushing this agenda, it is my sisters, my teammates, and Basketball Australia," Cambage said.

"It is the people around me now who are supporting me and people of colour to help change the world and I'm very proud and emotional when it comes to this.

"I told them I didn't feel supported by the organisation ... we've had racial issues in public and behind closed doors so it means a lot to me that the fight I've been driving for so long, other people are pushing forward."

The WNBA star has been a vocal proponent for social change, with the Black Lives Matter protests bringing an international focus to the movement.

With a Nigerian father and white mother, Cambage has spoken of her own encounters with racism in Australia, saying that she has never felt at home growing up.

She said she wants to see the indigenous flag on the team uniform while she felt that young people should be the focus for the initiative.

BA answered the Opals' call with the announcement of a program called RISE UP, which is an acronym for the team's values: Respect, Injustice, Standards, Equality, Unity, Peace.

Australia coach Sandy Brondello and players adapted the values with respect to racism and reconciliation after the Black Lives Matter protests.

Opals captain Jenna O'Hea said her teammates recognised they needed to do more.

"I'm proud to be trying to make change," O'Hea said.

"We have a platform and we want to use that - we want people to feel supported and feel heard and we haven't had those conversations as much as we should have.

"Liz got emotional today because she's been fighting for this for a long time and we should have stood by her sooner."

While the RISE UP initiative will be rolled out on social media, BA boss Jerril Rechter said the organisation was also putting into place an reconciliation action plan and a diversity and inclusion framework, with both to be delivered in the coming months.


AAP