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A timeline of Las Vegas Aces’ controversial WNBA offseason

The Las Vegas Aces are under investigation for accusations they mistreated Dearica Hamby and for salary cap violations. (Mike Kirschbaum/NBAE via Getty Images)

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.

January 21: Aces trade Dearica Hamby to the Sparks

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.

January 21: Dearica Hamby takes grievances to Instagram and WNBPA releases statement

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.”

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.”

January 28: Candace Parker announces her intention to sign with Aces

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.

February 7: Aces avoid talking about Hamby

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.

February 8: News breaks alleging Aces circumvented salary cap

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.

February 8: Aces release statement about WNBPA investigation surrounding Hamby trade

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.

2023 MVP Breanna Stewart Drops 31 Points in Liberty’s Huge Win Over Fever

breanna stewart and jonquel jones of the new york liberty celebrate win over indiana fever
Stewie and the Liberty dominated the court throughout Thursday's Fever home opener. (Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)

The New York Liberty dominated Indiana on Thursday night, winning by a whopping 36 points in the Fever's home opener. 

A sold-out crowd of 17,274 was in attendance to watch as star rookie Caitlin Clark finished the 102-66 defeat with nine points, seven rebounds, and six assists. It’s the first time since January 2021 — her freshman season at Iowa — that Clark's been held to single-digit scoring. 

"The physicality is definitely up there... I'm easily pushed off screens," she told reporters after the loss. "The game seems a little fast for me right now. The more I play and the more comfortable I get, it's going to slow down a little bit. It will be easier for me to make reads, see things develop."

The Fever were outscored by a combined margin of 57 points in their first two games — the largest two-game point deficit in WNBA season-opening history, according to @ESPNStatsInfo.

"We've got to get to a level of toughness," Fever coach Christie Sides in her own postgame remarks. "When things are going south on us, we're not stopping the bleeding."

"I have great perspective on everything that happens," Clark added. "It was the same in my college career. There were some moments that were absolutely amazing. And there were some moments I was not happy with how I played and how my team performed. That's just life, that's just basketball."

Liberty guard Sabrina Ionescu, who herself experienced a rocky rookie season following a much-hyped college career, offered up some insight on the matter.

"In this league, there are tough defenses all centered around not letting you get the ball, trapping, not letting you score," Ionescu said. "There were many factors that played into what was a tough first season for me in the league, but it helps you be able to figure it out. You have to have those experiences."

But it was reigning league MVP Breanna Stewart that truly stole the show, racking up 31 points, 10 rebounds, four assists, three steals, and two blocks on the night.

"In general, I just wanted to come out more aggressive coming off of last game," Stewart said after putting up the 24th 30-point game in her career.

Stewart she also commended the fans inside Indianapolis's packed Gainbridge Fieldhouse, noting that she hopes that level of support to continue across the WNBA.

"This is how you want every game to be and when it's a sell-out crowd, it gives you a similar playoff atmosphere feel," she said. "People want to be a part of this and the thing now is to continue to sustain it, continue to take the momentum that we have and turn it into something more."

WNBA Commissioner Admits to ‘Faulty’ Charter Rollout

WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert at 2024 wnba draft
Cathy Engelbert at the 2024 WNBA Draft in New York. (Cora Veltman/Sportico via Getty Images)

WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert admitted to a "faulty rollout" of the new charter travel initiative on Thursday, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.

Ahead of Tuesday's season opener, it was announced that the only teams flying private this week would be Indiana and Minnesota. The announcement came mere days after the league made a new charter flight program for all WNBA teams public. At the time, they said it would be implemented "as soon as we have the planes."

But as two teams out of 12 chartered to their first games of the season, others like the Atlanta Dream and Chicago Sky were forced to fly commercial.

A town hall meeting between Engelbert and the players was held in response to the confusion. Everything from the league's new media rights deal to private travel was covered in the meeting, with players submitting their questions ahead of time. Sky center Elizabeth Williams told Sun-Times reporter Annie Costabile afterwards that cross-country flights were prioritized.

"Flights that are across the country like [the Lynx] going to Seattle, crossing multiple time zones, or flights that usually require a connection, those were the priorities," Williams said. "That’s why New York didn’t go to DC with a charter, but Minny goes to Seattle."

What’s unclear under that metric is that the Atlanta Dream played the Los Angeles Sparks on Wednesday, which could technically be classified as a cross-country flight. 

On Tuesday, rookie forward Angel Reese shared a photo on her Instagram story lamenting the league's use of commercial flights.

"Just praying that this is one of the last commercial flights the Sky has to fly," Reese posted. The team still has at least three commercial flights awaiting them in the near future.

"Obviously, I think all teams should be able to get chartered," Reese told the Sun-Times. "But I know moving forward... going in the right direction, being able to have some teams [chartering] is cool. Within the next weeks, everybody will be flying charter, which will be really good."

On Thursday, Lindsay Schnell of USAToday Sports confirmed that the league intends to have all teams on charter flights by May 21st.

Brazil Wins Bid for 2027 Women’s World Cup Host

fifa womens world cup trophy on display
The FIFA Women's World Cup trophy on display in Bangkok after Brazil was announced as the 2027 host country. (Thananuwat Srirasant - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)

Brazil has been named the host for the 2027 Women’s World Cup, with FIFA announced early Friday. 

The decision came after a vote at the 74th FIFA Congress in Bangkok, with Brazil earning 119 votes to the joint European bid’s 78. 

This will be Brazil’s first time hosting the Women’s World Cup, with the country having hosted the men’s World Cup twice before in 1950 and 2014. It will also be the first Women’s World Cup held in South America. The tournament will follow the same 32-team format as the 2023 WWC in Australia and New Zealand.

Brazil winning the bid was not entirely surprising after FIFA issued a report just last week, stating that the Brazilian bid had pulled ahead as host following technical inspection. After evaluation, Brazil was given a score of 4.0 out of 5, compared to the 3.7 awarded to the Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands.

Brazil ranked higher in a number of key areas, including stadiums, accommodations, fan zones, and transport infrastructure. Though considered to be a frontrunner, the US and Mexico withdrew their joint bid prior to the technical inspection period, saying they would instead focus their efforts on 2031.

On Friday, Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) president Ednaldo Rodrigues called it a "victory." 

"We knew we would be celebrating a victory for South American women's soccer and for women," he told reporters. "You can be sure, with no vanity, we will accomplish the best World Cup for women."

"We are working on a transformation, not only for the country but for the continent," added bid team operational manager Valesca Araujo.

Brazil intends to use 10 of the venues utilized at the 2014 men’s World Cup, including holding the final in Rio de Janeiro on July 25th. The CBF's proposal outlines that the 2027 tournament run from June 24th through the end of July. Last summer’s World Cup began at the end of July and concluded on August 19th.

Another notable element of Brazil's newly unveiled plan to grow of the women’s game is that "all [men’s] clubs wishing to take part in high-level national and continental competitions must now provide a structure for a women’s team." While the definition of "structure" was not specifically identified, the country has set targets with CONMEBOL to help increase the number of women’s club teams in the country.

In last week's inspection findings, FIFA noted that selecting Brazil as the next WWC host could "have a tremendous impact on women's football in the region."

Chelsea Eyes Weekend Finale With WSL Title in Sight

chelsea players celebrate win against tottenham in the wsl
Chelsea beat Tottenham on Wednesday, moving to the top of the table in an effort to win departing coach Emma Hayes some silverware. (John Walton/PA Images via Getty Images)

Chelsea did what they needed to do on Wednesday in order to make Saturday's slate of season-ending WSL fixtures interesting: Beat Tottenham.

The Blues are now number one in the league, with an edge over Manchester City on goal differential thanks to an eight-goal outing against Bristol City last week. 

Yesterday's result tees up a league finale for the books as Chelsea looks to send coach Emma Hayes off with another trophy to add to her cabinet. The Blues will play FA Cup winner Manchester City at Old Trafford on Saturday, while City is away at Aston Villa.

"We will be leaving nothing on the pitch, we will be giving everything and no matter what the result is," Chelsea midfielder Erin Cuthbert said after Wednesday's win. "At least we can look each other in the eye and say we gave everything."

It makes for a thrilling end to Chelsea's Emma Hayes era, as the decorated WSL coach will take over the USWNT in June. And it comes after Hayes all but conceded the title race early this month after Chelsea fell to Liverpool 4-3.

"I think the title is done," Hayes said at the time. "Of course, mathematically, it's not, but I think the title is done. Our job between now and the end of the season is to keep pushing until the end, but I think it will be very difficult.

"We will never give up. But the title is far from us; it's not in our hands. I think City are deserving, their consistency has put them in that position. Of course, we will go to the end, but I don't think the title will be going to us this year."

Be it mind games or Hayes truly thinking her team was that far off, her words lit something in Chelsea. Their following two performances showed the team’s determination to have a shot at some silverware.

As for Saturday's schedule, Hayes believes her team is facing the "tougher of the two games."

"It's a fitting finale for me, being my final game," she told BBC Sport. "As I said to the players if someone gives you a second chance in life, make sure you don't need a third one. We're in the position we want to be in, and we'll give it everything on Saturday no matter what."

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