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Aces face multipronged investigation over Hamby, salary cap

Updated February 8, 2023 - 8:00 pm

The Aces are under investigation, the WNBA announced Wednesday, due to their conduct surrounding the exit of All-Star forward and eight-year veteran Dearica Hamby.

The investigation also includes allegations that the Aces engaged in salary cap circumvention, a source with knowledge of the situation told the Review-Journal, confirming a report in The Next, a website that covers women’s basketball.

The Aces have not responded to multiple requests for comment. Team owner Mark Davis told the Review-Journal on Wednesday that he wasn’t able to speak about any ongoing investigations, but said he was not aware of any salary cap circumvention by his front office.

“We will cooperate to the fullest with the WNBA or whoever it is who is investigating,” Davis said.

The Aces released a statement later Wednesday, citing the Hamby investigation.

“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,” it said. “We have been in contact with league investigators to assist with all information requested, and will continue to do so throughout the investigation.”

The probe involving Hamby, who was traded to the Los Angeles Sparks on Jan. 21, centers on allegations she raised in a recent social media post, a league spokesperson said.

In that post, which she made shortly after the deal was announced, Hamby wrote that the Aces bullied, manipulated and discriminated against her after she discovered she was pregnant with her second child.

The longest-tenured member of the team at the time, Hamby was a two-time sixth player of the year. She also expressed her unhappiness that certain agreements she had made with the Aces hadn’t been fulfilled.

She had previously admitted on social media that her two-year extension was below market value, stating she’d taken a pay cut because she valued “peace of mind,” happiness and because her daughter Amaya wanted to stay in Las Vegas.

“I was promised things to entice me to sign my contract extension that were not followed through on,” Hamby wrote in a statement on Instagram on Jan. 21.

The WNBA Players Association announced the same day that it was seeking a comprehensive investigation into whether Hamby’s rights under the collective bargaining agreement, as well as state and federal law, had been violated. Aces president Nikki Fargas alluded to the Hamby situation Tuesday during the news conference to introduce two-time MVP Candace Parker but did not mention Hamby or the WNBPA specifically.

“We do make sure and 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 Tuesday. “We’re going to be supportive of our players in that regard.”

Then, early Wednesday, The Next reported the league was investigating the Aces for salary cap circumvention.

It reported the Aces were making under-the-table payment offers to their current players and prospective free agents. According to that report, the Aces utilized a pre-selected company to offer players money for negligible work, allowing the team to sign players to smaller contracts and stay under the hard salary cap.

“Currently, we do have a salary cap, and that’s what we operate under,” Davis said.

The WNBA’s salary cap is a contentious issue around the league. Some teams — including the Aces for half of their 2022 championship season — carry 11 players instead of the allowed 12 because they can’t fit a final player under the cap.

Davis said it’s also important to convince players they can make enough money by only playing in the United States.

“My goal ever since I took over the team is to increase the compensation to these women as I believe they are the greatest athletes in the world at what they do,” Davis said.

Contact reporter Andy Yamashita at ayamashita@reviewjournal.com. Follow @ANYamashita on Twitter.

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