Aces head coach Becky Hammon is adamant that her two-game suspension for violating league and team Respect in the Workplace policies is unfounded.
The WNBA handed the 2022 Coach of the Year a two-game suspension without pay on Tuesday in relation to Las Vegas’ trade of Dearica Hamby back in January. The league’s investigation also found the Aces had made promises of “impermissible benefits” when negotiating a two-year contract extension with Hamby last June and stripped the organization of its 2025 first-round draft pick.
Hamby was pregnant at the time of her trade to the Los Angeles Sparks and said in an Instagram post that the Aces organization “bullied, manipulated, lied to and discriminated against” her due to her pregnancy.
“I was told that I was ‘a question mark’ and that it was said that I said I would ‘get pregnant again’ and there was a concern for my level of commitment to the team,” Hamby wrote. “I was told that ‘I didn’t hold up my end of the bargain’ (because ‘no one expected me to get pregnant in the next two years’).”
Hammon says those claims are false.
“I handled Dearica with care from day one when she told me (about the pregnancy), and she knows that,” Hammon said in a press conference on Wednesday.
Hamby never specified who within the Aces organization made the discriminatory statements, though she did say in interviews following the initiation of an investigation that it was an individual and not a group of people.
The league investigation revealed that the individual was Hammon.
“The Respect in the Workplace violation was related to comments made by Hammon to Hamby in connection with Hamby’s recent pregnancy,” the WNBA statement reads.
The WNBA added that the investigation included interviews of 33 players and the review of texts, emails and other documents. Hammon denied texting or emailing Hamby anything negative regarding her pregnancy.
“Those are completely false,” Hammon said of the allegations. “I never had one bad text between me and Dearica Hamby. Completely false. Or email. First of all, I don’t email my players, I talk to them directly. But we do exchange texts, and anything that is less than the up-and-up I can tell you is adamantly false from any person in this organization. That’s not how we do business. That’s not who we are.”
Hammon also said that she and Hamby had a “great relationship” and that the trade was “nothing personal.”
In her statement at the time of the trade, Hamby acknowledged that “being traded is part of the business” and specified that she did not take issue with the trade itself but rather the way she was treated throughout the process.
According to Hammon, the trade came down to “math and business.” Dealing Hamby to L.A. created enough cap space at the time for the reigning champion Aces to sign Candace Parker in free agency and form what many have dubbed a superteam.
Hammon went on to say that no one on the current Aces roster was interviewed in the investigation.
“I know that because none of the girls told me they were interviewed or asked to be interviewed,” she said, without acknowledging whether it was possible that players were interviewed and elected not to tell their coach.
In response to the league’s decision on Tuesday, the WNBA Players Association said that the punishment does not do enough to uphold the 2020 collective bargaining agreement (CBA).
“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,” the statement reads. “Today’s decision regarding penalties, however, misses the mark.”
The Aces organization pledged its support to Hammon in response to the penalties.
“The WNBA’s determinations about Becky Hammon are inconsistent with what we know and love about her,” the team said in a statement Tuesday. “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.”
The Aces open the 2023 regular season against the Seattle Storm on Saturday. Hammon will return to the sidelines for Las Vegas’ third game at home against Hamby and the Sparks on Saturday, May 27.
Eden Laase is a Staff Writer at Just Women’s Sports. Follow her on Twitter @eden_laase.