After a three-month investigation involving more than 30 people, the WNBA announced Tuesday it was suspending operations. Las Vegas Aces coach Becky Hammon in two games and eliminated the Aces’ 2025 early selection because of franchise violated league rules regarding unfair player benefits and employment policies.
The investigation was initiated because of the former Aces player’s statement Dearica Hamby after being sold to Los Angeles Sparks in January. Hamby criticized the Aces for “inappropriate behaviour”.
“Sales are part of the business,” Hamby said in a caption on Instagram. “Being lied to, abused, molested, and stigmatized.”
Hamby played for the Aces from 2015, when the franchise was still in San Antonio as the Stars, until 2022. He agreed to a two-year contract extension with the Aces last June. Hamby was delayed by an injury during the playoffs as Las Vegas won its first WNBA title.
Hamby announced at the Aces’ victory party that she is expecting her second child and plans to play in the 2023 season. After the trade, she said she was told she was “not just working out” and the Aces staff told her “[didn’t] look” will be ready to return.
“I’ve been struggling with my character and my work,” Hamby said at the time. “I was promised things to entice me to sign my contract extension that were not followed through.”
What will the penalties mean for the Aces and the WNBA? Let’s look at the issues involved.
Does the suspension affect Hammon’s reputation?
2022 was an exciting year for Hammon, who after eight years as an assistant with the San Antonio Spurs following his WNBA playing career finally landed a head coaching job. Winning the WNBA title in his first season leading the franchise brought Hammon and the Aces great history. This is a little dirty about it.
What worries some WNBA fans the most is that Hammon, Aces president Nikki Fargas, and general manager Natalie Williams are all women, and the results of the investigation suggest that Hamby did not receive the treatment she would have expected during her pregnancy.
However, in a statement released Tuesday evening, the Aces organization defended itself and Hammon.
“The Las Vegas Aces are deeply disappointed by the results of the WNBA’s investigation,” the statement read. “We are committed to supporting our players to the extent permitted by the WNBA. Our actions have always been consistent with our responsibility to hold ourselves to the highest standards, and what we provided was consistent with these principles. The well-being of our players and their families is and will always be our priority.” we are.
“The WNBA’s intentions regarding Becky Hammon are inconsistent with what we know and love about her. Becky is a caring person who creates close relationships with her players. We stand behind Coach Hammon as she continues to lead the Las Vegas Aces”.
Whether the “real” story was that the Aces saw an opportunity to sign a free agent Candace Parker and they were ready to leave Hamby even though they had already agreed with him, the investigation put the responsibility on Hammon as he made comments that Hamby objected to.
Hammon is not the first WNBA coach to be suspended for comments. So-Connecticut Sun coach Curt Miller, who now owns the Sparks, was fined $10,000 and suspended for one game for comments he made about player Liz Cambage’s size while arguing with an official during the 2021 game.
Like many WNBA organizations, the Aces market “family atmosphere” and “empowering the players” as their ethos. This can also be hit with these penalties.
Is it important for current Aces or future supporters to consider this agency? Those are tough questions. In general, Hammon received positive comments publicly from players last season and so far this year in preseason press sessions. The Aces organization under owner Mark Davis has done a lot to make the daily player accommodation of the highest quality.
But the players’ union, the WNBPA, called the WNBA’s punishment of the Aces “inadequate,” saying it did not go far enough.
Hammon has a scheduled press conference Wednesday before the sanctions are announced; All WNBA coaches are doing this as part of the lead-up to Friday’s season opener.
What is an example of stripping decisions of violation of the law?
This is the first time a WNBA team has lost a pick, but it is common in the NBA. In recent years, several teams have lost second-round picks due to infractions. The Chicago Bulls and Philadelphia 76ers lost second overall picks in the upcoming NBA draft, while the Miami Heat and Milwaukee Bucks were taken a year ago.
What the Aces were found guilty of is far more serious than the time violations the NBA has recently been penalized for. In that case, the action was legal but the contact between the players and the teams took place before the start of free agency.
A better comparison for Las Vegas is when the Minnesota Timberwolves were found in 2000 to agree to a future contract with player Joe Smith, allowing them to pay Smith a small amount as a free agent before signing Bird’s rights and re-signing. for a larger promised amount.
The late David Stern, who was then the commissioner of the NBA, canceled Smith’s contract with Minnesota — making him an agent — and he took over his next team five selected first in addition to paying a $3.5 million fine. The Timberwolves eventually acquired two of their first-rounders, but lost three picks during their attempts to build a team against MVP Kevin Garnett.
To some extent, the WNBA’s hands may be tied in punishing the Aces through the draft. Las Vegas had already sold its first 2024 to Sparks and Hamby. Unlike the NBA, where teams can trade seven draft picks in the future, the WNBA allows for two future drafts, meaning the 2025 draft is the only one being played for the Aces. — Kevin Pelton
Does losing the 2025 pick really hurt the Aces?
Meanwhile, the 2024 and 2025 WNBA drafts are expected to feature franchise-changing players. Because the incoming class still has a chance to clear COVID-19 to play a fifth year in college, it is not known which of the players will go to the draft in 2024. But 2025 looks strong.
That said, the Aces are the favorites this year. Stars It’s Wilson is the 2024 undrafted free agent, but Las Vegas has four other players — Chelsea Gray, Kelsey Plum, Jackie Young and Alysha Clark — Under contract through 2024. In short, it’s unlikely the Aces will be a lottery pick in 2025, which would likely negate the heartache of losing a superstar at that point.
These penalties may tarnish the Aces’ reputation, but will it deter the entire league from happening again? That’s a question we can’t answer right now, but the hope is that teams take this seriously.
What can we make of the fact that the WNBA could not justify the embezzlement of wages by the Aces?
Without seeing the results of the survey, it’s hard to tell. On the other hand, the league has said that the sanctions are violations of the laws regarding unfair benefits to players and labor laws.
With the WNBA’s salary cap complex, could illegal player benefits be seen as a way to bypass the cap? As the general manager told ESPN, things like this can be difficult for the league to judge.
If a franchise like Las Vegas gets player views based on the relationships that the Raiders or the Aces, who own Davis, have with local businesses, that doesn’t mean capping the cap, though it does mean putting more money in the players’ pockets. If the WNBA team promises to pay for some of the players’ services, such as school tuition for children, this would be seen as a violation. At this point, according to the league, it cannot guarantee this against the Aces.
In their statement, the Aces said: “As expected, the facts did not show that the Aces breached the salary cap by paying players ‘under the table’ or illegally during the 2023 free agency period.
“We look forward to continuing to support our players, coaches, staff, and the Las Vegas community.”
Is there a next step for Hamby?
At this time it is not known if they want to take legal action against the Aces team based on the violation of Respect in the Workplace, which the league said was based on the comments that Hammon told Hamby about the player’s pregnancy.
Hammy did not give up her career as a WNBA player when she was traded. But he may still be guilty of being discriminated against and abused because of what he said and the fact that he had to leave the team where he spent his entire WNBA career. In a statement, the organization said it would support Hamby while it considers other options.
In a the video was posted on Twitter and John W. Davis of the Long Beach Press-Telegram, Hamby spoke to reporters Tuesday in Los Angeles about the WNBA’s decision, which she said she received Monday.
“I feel like I want to move forward and look at where I am today. I’m healthy, I’m happy. My son is healthy,” Hamby said of his son, Legend. “I will be playing basketball this season. This season is over; the union and I will continue to explore many options.”
Hamby said he called Los Angeles general manager Karen Bryant before practice because he was ready to start playing again. She bounced back quickly after having her first child, daughter Amaya, and has bounced back since the birth of Legend. The Sparks open the 2023 WNBA season on Friday against the Phoenix Mercury.
“I’m not going to push myself too hard. I’m just focused on getting back in shape and turning the car around for basketball,” Hamby said. “But I’m going to play [coach Curt Miller] treat me like you would when I’m healthy or not pregnant. I work hard, and I think that will speak for itself.
“I have been writing to myself and making myself to prove that Aces is wrong. Right now, I am showing myself and my children that I can do it. At first, when the trade happened, I doubted myself a little. A little, but I am back. I am a serious player, I have to go back and hug the body. I’m ready for Friday.”
ESPN senior writer Kevin Pelton contributed to this story.