Australian basketball star Liz Cambage has threatened to boycott the Tokyo Olympics while speaking out against the lack of racial diversity in promotional photos of the Australian Olympic team.
Cambage, who helped Australia win bronze at the 2012 Olympics and also competed at the 2016 Games, criticized the images in a series of posts on Instagram using the hashtag #whitewashedaustralia.
“I’ve said it once I’ve said it a million times,” Cambage wrote under a promotional shot of athletes first posted by clothing brand Jockey, which is sponsoring the Australian Olympic team. “HOW AM I MEANT TO REPRESENT A COUNTRY THAT DOESNT EVEN REPRESENT ME.”
In a separate post, Cambage wrote: “y’all really do anything to remove POCs [people of color] from the forefront when it’s black athletes leading the pack.
“Until I see y’all doin more @ausolympicteam imma sit this one out.”
Cambage, who is preparing for the start of the WNBA season with the Las Vegas Aces, commented on another promotional photo, writing: “Also fake tan doesn’t equal diversity.”
That photo includes Indigenous rugby player Maurice Longbottom, who was wearing a jersey highlighting Australia’s Indigenous heritage. Cambage later clarified that she “wasn’t saying he had fake tan on.”
“I know who Maurice Longbottom is,” she said in a video. “He was the one wearing the Indigenous uniform, clearly … I’m talking about the rest of the photo. One token POC [person of color] in a photo is not good enough.” Longbottom has not acknowledged the comments on his Instagram page.
Cambage also posted footage of Cathy Freeman winning gold in the 400 meters at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, alongside the caption: “Also just to remind you Australia’s GREATEST sporting moment was thanks too BLACK INDIGENOUS WOMAN.”
In a statement, the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) said it “acknowledges Liz Cambage’s point with regard to this particular photo shoot.
“The athletes made available to Jockey could and should have better reflected the rich diversity of athletes who represent Australia at the Olympic Games.
“The AOC does however have a very proud history of celebrating and promoting diversity in all its forms. 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.”
In a statement sent to CNN, Jockey Australia said: “Jockey work with a diverse range of brand ambassadors across Australia and New Zealand, but acknowledge that we fell short in representing our diverse Australian community in these images of Olympic and Paralympic athletes.
“Jockey is committed to supporting and representing all Australians and is proud to support all our Australian sporting heroes competing in the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.”
A separate statement on the company’s website said: “For 145 years, Jockey International has been a leader in responsibility when it comes to actively supporting the various ethnicities, races and backgrounds of communities and individuals in more than 140 countries around the globe, including Australia … We take this matter very seriously and are currently evaluating all of our options.”
The full statement from Jockey can be viewed here.
The Olympics are scheduled to get underway on July 23 and run until August 8.