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Graney: WNBA has responsibility to investigate LVCVA’s deal with Aces

It could turn out nothing wrong transpired, that the sponsorship with 12 Aces players by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority complies with the league’s collective bargaining agreement.

But that doesn’t mean the WNBA shouldn’t investigate the matter.

And the LVCVA should welcome any such inquiry.

If all is above board, there’s nothing from which to be concerned. It doesn’t appear anyone locally is.

The LVCVA said last week that it will sponsor Aces rostered players at a price tag of $100,000 each. The team was informed of this in its locker room by LVCVA President and CEO Steve Hill. He was said to have misspoke when telling the players their only requirements were to “just play” and represent the city.

Which, on the face of things when it comes to the CBA, could be construed as circumventing the salary cap.

Check that. It would be construed as such.

Down this road

You can’t sponsor players — and certainly not pay each of them a six-figure amount — just for basketball services. For merely making 3-pointers and grabbing rebounds and dishing out assists and winning games.

All of which the Aces do as well as anyone else.

You need to remember the Aces have been down this type of road before, in part dealing with the salary cap.

Just last year, after a three-month inquiry, they were disciplined by the WNBA for violating league rules concerning impermissible player benefits and workplace policies in regards to former Aces player Dearica Hamby.

Coach Becky Hammon was suspended for two games, and the Aces had their 2025 first-round draft pick stripped.

So to suggest there shouldn’t be an investigation now is beyond shortsighted. Transparency is always the best policy.

But there is much more to this agreement, according to the LVCVA.

Hill said that any contracts signed by players will require them, in part, to reach mutually agreeable opportunities for appearances on the city’s behalf. Mutually agreeable?

Does this mean if star guard Kelsey Plum doesn’t feel like showing up to a specific event under the sponsorship guidelines, she doesn’t have to? I doubt that would occur, but the wording of the document is interesting.

Via a spokesperson this week, Hill championed the already robust reaction to the sponsorship deal, saying that the LVCVA had 2 million views of the video within 48 hours of him informing the team about it and a billion earned media impressions.

Las Vegas in most ways sells itself. People are going to come and spend their money or they aren’t. I’m not sure how much having A’ja Wilson or any of her teammates asking them to do so via multiple platforms will make a difference. Maybe some. You never know what inspires others to make the trek to the city.

Positive on paper

It’s certainly a good deal for the players, many of whom would more than double their salary with the $100,000. It’s certainly a good deal on paper for everyone involved should the LVCVA continue to reap the benefits of what has been a record reply to the news.

The response has been overly positive for a reason. It’s another way to broadcast the league’s ever-growing popularity. Might even push others in league cities to search for more ways to endorse and sponsor their players.

You can, like Wilson said, try to move the needle. Try to make things better for all franchises. That’s all fine and good. Admirable, even.

But that doesn’t mean the WNBA shouldn’t have its own look at all particulars surrounding the LVCVA deal. That’s the responsibility of the league.

The LVCVA — and the Aces, for that matter — should welcome any such inquiry with open arms.

Ed Graney, a Sigma Delta Chi Award winner for sports column writing, can be reached at egraney@reviewjournal.com. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 7 to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on X.

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