May 27, 2021 

‘I try to be water, but I’m fire’ Liz Cambage reflects on the Curt Miller situation

A'ja Wilson and Liz Cambage say it's part of their job to stand up for women

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Love her or hate her, Liz Cambage and her larger-than-life attitude aren’t going anywhere any time soon.

By now, you’ve likely heard what Cambage had to say to Connecticut head coach Curt Miller after the Aces played the Sun last weekend. Miller had made a comment about Cambage’s size and weight while arguing with the refs for a call.

She took to Instagram to call him out on it — and now she admits, while it may not have been the best way to stand up for herself and her fellow women in the league, she’s glad she did.

Liz Cambage. Photo by Abbie Parr, via Las Vegas Aces.

‘This is what our league is about’

I asked A’ja Wilson what she thought of this whole Curt Miller/Liz Cambage situation, and while she admitted Liz could speak to it better, she was quick to back up her teammate.

She said she was proud of Cambage for taking such a public stand for herself, saying the Instagram rant was “very Liz.” But she respects her for it, and made it clear the rest of the Aces stand behind her.

“I’m glad Liz was comfortable with that to share what went down on the court,” Wilson said. “That’s who we are as women — we’re gonna fight for what’s right at the end of the day. Yes, in the moment things may be said, but you can’t back down from anyone. Just continue to use your voice, that’s what our league is all about.”

Especially after such an influential 2020 season, the WNBA is really supporting how powerful its athletes are. With things like the #CountIt campaign and the “144” documentary, we get to see the strength and depth of these women on full display.

While, even by Liz’s own admission, an Instagram rant may not have been the best way to deal with this specific situation, it’s still crucial that she take a stand at all. It shows the growth of the league and embodies the shift we’re seeing in women’s sports.

Female athletes don’t have to just be quiet and thankful to be on the court/field/etc. anymore — they can fully own that space and make it theirs.

Confidence years in the making

Photo via Twitter, @LVAces.

We all know Liz Cambage as six feet and eight inches of pure swagger and confidence, but she wasn’t always that way. It look a long time for her to grow into herself and learn to love her body. That’s why it’s so important to her to fight for it now.

“I was very bullied since I was a kid — I’ve been bullied and bullied and bullied, so I learned really young to stand up and defend myself, and I have a lot of confidence,” Cambage said. “I went through my whole teenage years really hating and hurting myself because I didn’t like being bigger. I love who I am now… So when people disrespect me like that, I see fire.”

This is an issue that isn’t all too unfamiliar to many women, and especially to female athletes. Struggling with body image is something a lot of people can relate to, and while something like what Miller said could be taken as banter or a one-off comment, it’s important to note his position of power in the league.

He’s a man working in a women’s league, leading a team of female athletes day in and day out. His job is to inspire confidence in these women and help them grow. How can he do that if he’s putting down women in different colored uniforms along the way?

“There’s something in me that will always want to stand up for others and defend others, because I never had that growing up and I had to learn to defend myself,” Cambage said. “I’m no angel… I get into it on the court, but for a man that’s being paid to coach in a women’s league to be hurling abuse — and I’m not the first one — that just hits different.”

For Cambage, yes the on-court comments sparked her reaction, but it goes deeper than that. Obviously, she’s tough — she can handle trash talk and the like from opponents, but she draws the line when disrespect comes from a place of ill will.

The question you may be wondering is, did Liz get what she wanted out of this? Is she happy now? Well, it’s not really about that for her. Rather, it’s about standing up for herself and her fellow athletes in a league that embraces powerful women.

“I don’t know how satisfied I am — I don’t think I was looking for satisfaction in the whole situation,” Cambage said. “I tend to forget how big my platform is… I’m trying to be water and be peaceful and calm, but I’m red, I’m fire… The way I went about it wasn’t right, but I’m glad I did go about it that way because I had a lot of other coaches and players come to me and tell me their stories about the same person… I said what I said, and the rest is on the league now.”

Curt Miller faced a one-game suspension and $10,000 fine for his comments against Cambage, and the Sun did issue a formal apology on his behalf.

Written by Sydney Olmstead

Pac-12 and Las Vegas Aces reporter.

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