Aces penalized after WNBA investigation of bullying, discrimination
Ahead of an attempt at an encore campaign, the Las Vegas Aces were recently penalized after an investigation by the WNBA after an offseason trade involving forward Dearica Hamby.
The findings after 33 interviews have resulted in Las Vegas being stripped of a 2025 first round pick as well as having its head coach Becky Hammon suspended for the first two games of the upcoming season without pay.
Per a statement released by the franchise, the Aces have said:
“The Las Vegas Aces are deeply disappointed by the outcome of the WNBA investigation. We are committed to supporting all our players to the fullest extent allowed by the WNBA. Our actions have always been consistent with our responsibility to hold ourselves to the highest professional standards, and the facts we presented were consistent with these standards. The well-being of our players and their families has and will always be at the forefront of who we are.
The WNBA’s determinations about Becky Hammon are inconsistent with what we know and love about her. Becky is a caring human being who forges close personal relationships with her players. We stand behind Coach Hammon as she continues to lead the Las Vegas Aces.
As expected, the facts did not demonstrate that the Aces violated the salary cap by paying players “under the table” or acted impermissibly during the 2023 free agency period.
We look forward to continuing to support our players, coaches, employees, and the Las Vegas community.”
Hamby was traded this offseason to the Los Angeles Sparks along with a 2024 first round pick in return for a second round pick in the same year and center Amanda Zahui B., who is no longer with the team.
“We all loved Dearica,” General Manager Natalie Williams said. “But you’ve got to look to see what you can do to better your roster from where it was last year. Unfortunately, that was the piece that we felt we could move and that other people would want because she is such a great player.
“And it allowed us to bring in [newcomers] Candace Parker, Alysha Clark and even Cayla George. At the end of the day, this is a business and everyone is tradable. It’s just unfortunate when things don’t turn out for someone else the way they would want.”
Before the trade, Hamby spent eight years with the Aces franchise dating back to their days in San Antonio as the Stars. Along with guards Sydney Colson and Kelsey Plum, Hamby was the only player on last year’s team with San Antonio ties.
“We had a great locker room last year,” Williams said. “Everyone got along so it wasn’t really any of that, it was just where we felt the pieces needed to move in order to strengthen our bench and our roster.”
Plum addressed it in the offseason, admitting she can continue to be a proud member of the Aces franchise while supporting her longtime friend in Hamby.
“Of course, it’s different,” Plum said. “We were together in San Antonio. Me, her and Sydney Colson we call ourselves ‘The Original Three.’ It is definitely different. Sports are a business, you can’t take things personally and you’ve got to just be able to adjust.”
Following the trade, Hamby stayed relatively silent before making her first public comments via a social media post on Instagram. Her response read:
"I was asked if I planned my pregnancy. When I responded, 'no,' I was then told that I 'was not taking precautions to not get pregnant.' I was being traded because 'I wouldn't be ready and we need bodies.' I planned to play this season, and I have expressed my desire to play this season. I have pushed myself throughout my entire pregnancy and have continued to work out (basketball included) on my own and with the team staff -- even on days where it was uncomfortable to walk, only to be inaccurately told that 'I was not taking my workouts seriously.'"
"The unprofessional and unethical way I have [been] treated has been traumatizing," Hamby wrote. "To be treated this way by an organization, BY WOMEN who are mothers, who have claimed to 'be in these shoes,' who preach family, chemistry, and women's empowerment is disappointing and leaves me sick to my stomach.”
As a whole, the Aces were initially quiet following the whistleblowing actions of Hamby.
“The biggest thing is we were side-swiped,” Williams said. “We wanted the WNBA to go through the proper channels through the WNBPA, the channels through the [collective bargaining agreement] and what needed to happen. So we didn’t respond because we hadn’t heard anything from the league.”
She went on adding more context to the already convoluted situation.
“We definitely were [side-swiped],” she said during this year’s Media Day. “The Aces are a tight-knit family so we knew Dearica was happy here and it’s still an ongoing investigation but it’s hard because as a player, she probably didn’t want to leave.
“It’s unfortunate the way things were handled – I don’t think that’s something that you should blast people on Twitter, I don’t believe in that. It should’ve gone through the right channels if there was something that she was unhappy with.”
Williams claimed a lot of the things mentioned in Hamby’s social media post were the first times she had been made aware of any type of mistreatment.
Hamby attended the team’s championship parade following the franchise’s first WNBA title late last year with a water bottle in hand. The water bottle was noticeably different from the various tequila, whiskey and champagne bottles in the hands of her teammates.
During the parade as part of her address to the fans, Hamby announced she was pregnant with her second child, Legend. Her first child, Amaya, was born in February 2017.
Fast forward to today and Hamby has successfully given birth to Legend, has been an active participant in Sparks practices in addition to playing in the team’s lone preseason game last week.
Hamby expects to be ready for the start of the regular season which begins Friday, May 19. Game two of the year for the Sparks will be a home game against the Aces in Hamby’s first meeting against her former team.
More importantly, Las Vegas’ home opener will be Saturday, May 27 with Hamby and Los Angeles in town for the team’s Ring Night. That will also mark the first game of the year, Hammon will be eligible to coach.
“We’re very excited about Ring Night – I’ve seen the rings, they’re incredible,” Williams said. “We’re excited that it's against LA for her because she helped win that ring. It’s going to be a special night for her and I know that the crowd is probably going to cheer and give her a standing ovation.”
Hammon has maintained that she asked about Hamby’s pregnancy but never went into specifics.
"I'm just obviously, along with the organization, everyone is disappointed with the findings,” Hammon said. “But we're looking forward to, kind of, putting the whole thing behind us. To have your name be associated with something like that, which is not who you are as a person, it's not how I operate. I handled Dearica with care from day one when she told me and she knows that.
“And like I said, once I made the phone call that the decision has been made to move her, that's when everything kind of fell apart."