AUSTRALIAN Opals star Liz Cambage wants the Aboriginal flag permanently displayed on her national uniform after her teammates declared solidarity with her and committed to a fight for racial equality.
In a powerful five-minute video the Opals call on Australians to “Rise Up” against racial injustice after earlier this month calling on Basketball Australia to commit to change and support the Black Lives Matter movement.
Cambage, who marched in recent protests and urged others to attend marches in Melbourne, revealed a text message to her teammates lead to a boycott of training earlier this month when she felt BA had failed to respond to the movement.
But that response from her teammates sparked the push to make real change and Cambage said she finally felt like she was no longer the only one in the fight.
“A couple of weeks ago on a Wednesday night I put in the group chat that I wasn’t feeling the greatest, I wasn’t feeling supported by our organisation,” Cambage said on Wednesday.
“It had been weeks since the protests and little black squares on Instagram and I wasn’t seeing anything public from Basketball Australia.
“I dropped the bomb, switched my phone off and two hours later the girls were boycotting practice in the morning. I think maybe I am starting to rub off on them a little bit.
“I was very moved, very inspired and very emotional, especially with our team history. We have had racial issues, public and behind closed doors.
“It does mean a lot to me that a fight I have been driving for so long, people are on the bandwagon and pushing forward. It means a lot there are other people pushing this.”
Cambage, who has spoken before about the racial prejudice she has endured, still feels Australia is a “whitewashed country”. But it’s a country she dearly loves, and believes change can happen.
“I represent my country and it’s something I do with great pride. But our beautiful country does have a dark past and I think it’s well and truly time we step up and teach the proper history of this country, Until we do that people cannot respect black lives,” she said.
“I’d love to see the Indigenous flag on our uniforms.
“We carry the “rise up” in our hearts and our heads. If we really want to respect this county we need to see those flags on our uniform.
“Here in Australia we have been quiet on a lot of issues over the years.
“I have been banging my head against a brick wall on a lot of these issues for years. It is hard seeing everyone at the table now, but I can’t be bitter about it. This is change.
“Change isn’t easy. It’s inspiring to see people out in the streets supporting change. Growing hurts, but we have to go through it right now. It’s going to be better.”
The “Rise Up” theme has long been part of the Opals values, targetting respect, equality and peace.
Opals captain Jenna O’Hea said the true scope of the issue became real to her in an “emotional” Zoom call between Opals players a month ago and she realised it was time to stand with Cambage.
“It got extremely emotional and extremely raw and I think those conversations are really important to have because in the past we haven’t been having them enough,” she said.
“We need to have those uncomfortable conversations to really make sure there is change with this.
“Liz has been fighting for this for a long time and we should have stood by her sooner.
“But we are here now, we stand with her and with all black, aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders who live here, and play the game of basketball.
“We want people to feel valued and heard.”