The Las Vegas Aces sat atop the basketball world in September after winning their first WNBA championship. Since then, the team — which was already a favorite to repeat as champions in 2023 — has found itself embroiled in multiple controversies.
The franchise is being investigated for its treatment of Dearica Hamby, who was traded to the Los Angeles Sparks last month while expecting her second child, and also reportedly for circumventing the WNBA’s salary cap. Both accusations were raised in the last few weeks.
Here is a timeline of the events leading up to this point.
Las Vegas dealt the two-time Sixth Player of the Year to L.A. along with a 2024 first-round pick in exchange for a 2024 second-round pick and the negotiating rights for forward Amanda Zahui B., who was a free agent at the time. Zahui B. ended up signing with the Mystics later on in free agency.
The San Antonio Stars, who later moved to Las Vegas and became the Aces, drafted Hamby sixth overall in 2015. With the organization, she won a WNBA championship and was an All-Star in 2021 and 2022 as a key contributor off the bench.
Hamby, 29, had signed a multi-year contract extension on June 29, seven months before the trade.
On the same day that the trade was made public, Hamby accused the Aces of mistreating her due to her pregnancy.
If true, the Aces could be in violation of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978.
“Being traded is part of the business,” Hamby wrote on Instagram. “Being lied to, bullied, manipulated and discriminated against is not.”
View this post on Instagram A post shared by dearica marie hamby (@dearicamarie)
A post shared by dearica marie hamby (@dearicamarie)
She went on to say that the Aces organization “attacked” her character and work ethic and called into question her commitment to the team.
After Hamby’s post, the WNBA Players Association released a statement acknowledging a concern raised against the Aces but did not specify if the player in question was Hamby or if it was in relation to her post.
“A member of our Union has raised serious concerns regarding the conduct of members of Las Vegas Aces’ management,” the statement read. “We will review this matter and we will seek a comprehensive investigation to ensure that her rights under the collectively bargained provisions of the 2020 CBA, as well as her rights and protections under state and federal law, have not been violated.”
After two years with the Chicago Sky, Parker opted to sign with the Aces in free agency, announcing her decision on Instagram on a Saturday afternoon.
“After evaluating the landscape together with my family, we’ve decided the Las Vegas Aces are the right organization for us at this point in our lives,” wrote the two-time WNBA champion.
Parker reportedly signed a one-year, $100,000 contract with Las Vegas, taking a steep discount to join the superteam for the 2023 season.
The Aces held an introductory press conference for Parker on Tuesday that included coach Becky Hammon, team president Nikki Fargas and general manager Natalie Williams.
Fargas started the press conference with an opening statement that addressed the Aces’ intentions with building their roster during the offseason and indirectly referenced the team’s decision to trade Hamby.
“We will always continue to make sure that our players and their families will always be in the forefront of who we are as a franchise,” Fargas said. “We’re going to always be supportive of our players in that regard. And we will always demonstrate that we will act accordingly when you are discussing any situation surrounding the well-being of our athletes.
“We are here to assemble the best team possible, and when putting together a team, there are times when trades will happen. But that’s for us to also remain competitive.”
Later, when a reporter raised a question to Fargas about Hamby, an Aces spokesperson interjected to tell the media in attendance that Fargas had to take another call and they would take just one more question. From there, the Zoom press conference ended abruptly.
In case folks are interested in seeing how this was handled on Candace's intro press conference...Here is the video of @ANYamashita trying to ask his question about Dearica Hamby: https://t.co/D3lMME5cAV pic.twitter.com/t4fYChCs6f— Ben Pickman (@benpickman) February 7, 2023
In case folks are interested in seeing how this was handled on Candace's intro press conference...Here is the video of @ANYamashita trying to ask his question about Dearica Hamby: https://t.co/D3lMME5cAV pic.twitter.com/t4fYChCs6f
In addition to the Hamby investigation, the Aces also came under scrutiny this week for accusations that they circumvented the salary cap, which is set at $1,420,500 for the 2023 season.
The organization allegedly made “under-the-table” offers to players they hoped to sign in free agency, which included sponsorship offers from “pre-selected companies,” as first reported by The Next on Wednesday.
The CBA does not allow sponsorships that exceed fair market value. It also forbids teams from making deals that serve as “compensation for basketball services.”
WNBA leaders sounded off on the report on Twitter this week, with Dream owner Larry Gottesdiener, Lynx head coach and president of basketball operations Cheryl Reeve and Fever GM Lin Dunn calling for a “level playing field” when it comes to the salary cap.
The Aces released a statement on Feb. 8 at 5:48 PM local time (PST) addressing the investigation for the first time.
“The Las Vegas Aces are aware of the formal investigation launched today by the WNBA regarding Dearica Hamby,” the statement read.
The investigation, however, had started prior to the Aces’ statement, The Athletic confirmed this week. The WNBPA’s own investigation had also begun earlier.
The statement continued: “As an organization whose mission is to support and celebrate the tremendously talented women in our league, we take seriously our responsibility to hold ourselves to the highest professional standards.
We have been in contact with league investigators to assist with all information requested, and will continue to do so throughout the investigation. Due to the ongoing investigation, the organization will have no further comment at this time.”
The statement did not address the salary cap accusations.