May 16, 2023
WNBA announces punishment in Las Vegas Aces investigation
Pick rescinded, suspension for Becky Hammon
After just about five months since Dearica Hamby’s trade to the Aces and three months since our Howard Megdal reported the team was under investigation, the WNBA announced the Aces punishment on Tuesday. For what the league described as “violating league and team Respect in the Workplace policies”, Aces head coach Becky Hammon has been suspended two games. For what the league described as “violating league rules regarding impermissible benefits”, the Aces had their 2025 first round pick rescinded, meaning the 2025 draft will have only 35 picks should the league remain at 12 teams.
“It is critical that we uphold the values of integrity and fairness, which create a level playing field for our teams,” said WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert in a statement. “The Aces failed to adhere to league rules and regulations and have been disciplined accordingly. We are also disheartened by the violation of our Respect in the Workplace policies and remain committed to ensuring that enhanced training is conducted and standards are followed across all WNBA teams.”
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During the course of the investigation, the WNBA said it interviewed 33 people and reviewed numerous texts, emails and other documents. During the investigation, the WNBA had several people raised concerns about how the Aces acted during the most recent free agency period, where the Aces signed Candace Parker, Alysha Clark and Cayla George. However, the investigation couldn’t substantiate any of the concerns, according to the league.
The investigation started after Dearica Hamby was traded to Los Angeles and accused the Aces in an Instagram post of unfair treatment after they found out she was pregnant again. In the post, Hamby states the Aces mistreated her for becoming pregnant after signing a contract extension and knowing she was pregnant when she signed the extension.
The second investigation stemmed from accusations that the Aces set up players with outside marketing deals to pay them more than their salary while having to do little work for the money. The Aces were accused of doing this with both current players and free agents they had signed.
Around the league, a quick consensus from other teams that the penalties would do little to dissuade future actions that ran afoul of both these fronts was echoed publicly by the league’s Players Association.
“The League had an opportunity to send a clear message that it abides by and protects the provisions of the CBA, particularly those that we were most proud of – the provisions meant to support player parents,” said the WNBPA in a statement. “Today’s decision regarding penalties, however, misses the mark. Where in this decision does this team or any other team across the League learn the lesson that respect in the workplace is the highest standard and a player’s dignity cannot be manipulated?
“Incidents of misconduct by a team or team staff cannot always be compared, but recent penalties imposed by the League, and an honest view of the facts, demonstrate that this penalty is far from appropriate,” the statement continued. “While taking away a future draft pick is significant and has never been done in the League’s history, it penalizes a future player by removing an opportunity to compete for a job.”
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The Aces did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Next, nor did Hamby’s agent, Eric Wiesel.
Howard Megdal contributed reporting to this story.
Written by Matthew Walter
Matthew Walter covers the Las Vegas Aces, the Pac-12 and the WCC for the Next. He is a former Director of Basketball Operations and Video Coordinator at three different Division I women's basketball programs.
I thought that the punishment for the salary cap violations was pretty modest. By contrast, when the Timberwolves circumvented the NBA’s salary cap in a different way (by convincing a single player, Joe Smith, to sign with the team for below market value with the secret understanding that he would be rewarded with a huge multimillion dollar contract later on), the NBA punished the team by voiding Smith’s contract, fining them $3.5 million, and stripping the team of a first-round draft pick for the next five years. While the situations aren’t exactly the same, I think that Vegas got off rather easy given the team that they were able to build by this salary cap subterfuge.