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LVCVA pushing ahead with plan to pay Aces players

Updated May 20, 2024 - 10:39 pm

A WNBA investigation isn’t scaring the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority away from following through with its sponsorship offers to Aces players.

The league confirmed to the Review-Journal on Saturday it was opening an investigation into the $100,000 sponsorship deals between the LVCVA and 12 Aces players. The development arose less than 24 hours after the blockbuster offers were announced Friday.

Aces forward Kierstan Bell told her TikTok followers Sunday that players have yet to receive the funds.

“If you think I have $100,000 right now, you don’t understand how this works,” Bell said on a livestream.

Details still need to be ironed out with each player and their agents, an LVCVA spokesperson told the Review-Journal on Monday. Once negotiations conclude, the organization might even make an occasion of it.

“The players’ agents have agreed, the players have agreed,” the spokesperson said. “We are going through the formalities and possibly a ceremonial event of contract signing.”

LVCVA president and CEO Steve Hill and members of the board surprised Aces players in their locker room at Michelob Ultra Arena on Friday. The scene was captured in a video that was later posted on X. Hill told the players all they have to do to receive the funds is play basketball and represent Las Vegas.

He told the Review-Journal on Friday that players had signed contracts that included the requirement to “reach mutually agreeable opportunities for appearances on (the city’s) behalf.”

The aforementioned wording is included in the letters of intent the LVCVA provided to each player’s agent, Hill clarified Monday. The LVCVA feels the details shouldn’t present a roadblock.

“The players’ agents were approached and sponsorship agreements have been offered — the next step is to work with each agent on specifics and signing,” the LVCVA’s spokesperson said. “An LOI was presented to each agent, which each agent agreed to. Each LOI had a couple of deliverables that will now be finalized with each agent. That part of the agreements determines specific marketing deliverables like image use, appearances and other ways of representing the Vegas brand.”

The WNBA has declined to disclose the scope of its investigation, but Hill’s comments in the LVCVA’s announcement video could have been what triggered the league’s probe.

The WNBA’s collective bargaining agreement prohibits third parties from paying players for “basketball services.” The league also needs to make sure the Aces were not involved in the offers or negotiations.

Coach Becky Hammon said Saturday she and the team had “nothing to do with” the sponsorship. Hill said Saturday the LVCVA went about things “the right way.”

“What Steve said in the locker room was a general summary of what is really a simple marketing program,” the LVCVA spokesperson said Monday. “None of the details yet to be signed will impede that from happening.”

The LVCVA’s marketing team pitched the sponsorships just a week prior to the eventual announcement. Hill expects to yield a high return on the organization’s $1.2 million investment. He said he felt the timing of the announcement was important.

“We wanted to capture the momentum of women’s basketball headed into the season. The beginning of the season brings a heightened level of energy we wanted to be a part of,” Hill said.

Hill said he wanted the announcement to come after the Aces’ ring and banner-raising ceremony May 14 but before Caitlin Clark and the Indiana Fever visit Las Vegas on May 25, in order to “capitalize on the national broadcast and in-game commentary.”

The Aces (2-0) continue their regular season at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Michelob Ultra Arena against the Phoenix Mercury (1-1).

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