In January, four months after the Las Vegas Aces won the 2022 WNBA title, the team traded forward Dearica Hamby to the Los Angeles Sparks. Hamby, who signed a two-year extension with the Aces in June, had announced at the championship parade that she was pregnant with her second child. After the trade, Hamby wrote that she was "bullied" and "manipulated" by the team, extensively detailing "disgusting comments" that questioned her family planning, work ethic, and loyalty to the team.
"Did the team expect me to promise not to get pregnant in exchange for the contract extension?" she wrote. Hamby did not name names in that statement, though she did note that some of the misconduct was "BY WOMEN who are mothers." On Tuesday the WNBA put a name to one of those women, announcing that Aces head coach Becky Hammon would be suspended two games for violating "Respect in the Workplace policies" with comments on Hamby's pregnancy.
The league said its investigation involved interviews with 33 people and a review of "numerous texts, emails, and other documents." It also determined that the Aces had violated "league rules regarding impermissible player benefits" while negotiating Hamby's extension,and took away the team's 2025 first-round draft pick. The Aces' 2024 first-round pick had already been shipped out in the trade that sent Hamby to the Sparks.
By any reading, Hammon and the Aces got a slap on the wrist. The coach will be suspended without pay for only two games of the newly extended 40-game regular season. "Where in this decision does this team or any other team across the League learn the lesson that respect in the workplace is the highest standard and a player's dignity cannot be manipulated?" the players association asked in a statement on Tuesday. Here's one puzzling frame of reference: Last year, New York Liberty owners Joe and Clara Tsai were fined $500,000 for chartering private planes for their team, softening the grind of a league notorious for its brutal travel schedule.
Hammon, who had been an assistant coach with the San Antonio Spurs for seven years, was hired as the Aces head coach in December 2021, becoming the first coach in the league to have an annual salary above $1 million. Las Vegas started the 2022 season hot, ending with a 26-10 record, the No. 1 seed and the franchise's first title. After her first season at the helm of a WNBA team, Hammon was voted 2022 Coach of the Year. The WNBA season opens this weekend; the Aces remain the title favorites, slightly over the Liberty.