Liz Cambage, one of the WNBA's most outstanding players despite her relatively short time in the league, has always led with her gut and spoken her mind. So of course she had that same attitude when she was interviewed by the Los Angeles Times recently. Cambage moved to LA a few months ago after signing a one-year contract with the Los Angeles Sparks, and she's loving every minute of it. She's got the ocean, a new place in Bel Air and her family in Australia is closer.
But Cambage, 30, talked about so much more than being in LA. She spoke about being on a new team, the continuing compensation issue in the WNBA and why she's going to continue to be outspoken on any and every issue.
Pay disparities in the WNBA
Cambage has played in China a lot, where she made many times her WNBA salary. So she's keenly aware of how much less she and every other player are making compared to what they could earn overseas. She's talked about WNBA pay disparities before, most recently in February when she tweeted about Becky Hammon being given a $1 million contract to be the head coach of the Las Vegas Aces. Cambage pointed out that Hammon makes as much as four times what the players make. She was criticized for it, but stands by her comment.
“People manipulated that and tried to villainize me for literally just stating facts,” Cambage said. “I love Becky getting her dollars up. But how do you have a coach making more than the whole team’s salary cap? That’s insane. How is that a balance?”
And it goes beyond just salary. Even though several team owners would happily charter planes so their players can travel comfortably, they're prohibited from doing so (one owner was even fined over the offseason for chartering a plane for his team). The WNBA's new collective bargaining agreement states that all teams must fly commercial and book their players in comfort plus seats.
A comfort plus seat still doesn't fit her 6-8 frame, but she's found a solution — one that the WNBA won't pay for: flying first class, which is much roomier than even comfort plus. Cambage told the Times that she pays $5,000 to $8,000 a year to upgrade her tickets.
“I’m not sitting in the exit row,” Cambage told the Times. “If you’re under six-five, you’re fine. But players like me and Brittney [Griner], that’s gonna come out of our pocket.”
Playing for the Sparks and learning from teammates
Cambage's journey around the WNBA has allowed her to experience several different team environments, but she said that being on the Sparks is giving her whole new feelings as the WNBA kicks off.
“This season is going to be the first of my career where I’ve been surrounded by so much love and support and fans and friends in the same city. It’s a dream come true.” [...]
“I’m surrounded by people that actually care and want the best out of me,” Cambage says. “I’m where I need to be.”
There's another benefit to playing for the Sparks: she has direct access to Chiney and Nneka Ogwumike, who both have high positions in the WNBPA. When Cambage speaks, they listen.
“What I love about Liz is that she is authentically herself,” Nneka Ogwumike told the Times. “She likes to shoot it to people straight, and she appreciates transparency from others. I really respect that.” As for the WNBPA, it “answers to the players.” She says Cambage’s frankness “holds us accountable. And I’m hoping [it does] for the league as well.”
Being fearlessly outspoken
Cambage almost never hesitates when it comes to speaking her mind, whether it's in an interview, on social media, or to her teammates. Even though she's thrilled to be on the Sparks and in Los Angeles, she doesn't plan to stop speaking out on anything. She wants to do what other players can't or won't, and she's not concerned about the consequences.
“Other than me, I don’t really see anyone being truly vocal,” Cambage says. “I don’t know if it’s just because I’m not American and I’m like, ‘what are you gonna do to me?’ I’m not gonna make Team USA. I’m already not protected. I’m already not one of the favorites of the league. I don’t have that little gold star that the WNBA seems to give every UConn player.”
“I don’t really suck a**,” she says with a laugh. “And I’m not about to.”