The WNBA is rescinding the Las Vegas Aces' 2025 draft pick and suspending head coach Becky Hammon for two games without pay, the league announced Tuesday. This marks the first time a future draft pick has been rescinded in league history, a result of two separate investigations the league conducted following claims from All-Star Dearica Hamby.
The investigations included interviews with 33 people, in addition to a review of texts, emails and other documents.
In one probe, the league found the Aces promised "impermissible benefits" during negotiations for Hamby’s player contract. The other investigation found Hammon violated the league's Respect in the Workplace policies with comments about Hamby's pregnancy.
"It is critical that we uphold the values of integrity and fairness, which create a level playing field for our teams," WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert said in a statement. "The Aces failed to adhere to league rules and regulations and have been disciplined accordingly. We are also disheartened by the violation of our Respect in the Workplace policies and remain committed to ensuring that enhanced training is conducted and standards are followed across all WNBA teams."
The WNBPA released a statement shortly after the league's, asserting the punishment doesn't aptly address the misconduct and instead penalizes a future player.
"The League had an opportunity to send a clear message that it abides by and protects the provisions of the CBA, particularly those that we were most proud of – the provisions meant to support player parents. Today’s decision regarding penalties, however, misses the mark," the statement said. "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?"
Hamby, a two-time Sixth Player of the Year, was traded to the Los Angeles Sparks in January while she was pregnant with her son Legend. She announced the pregnancy during festivities after the Aces won the franchise's first WNBA championship in September 2022. She also has a 6-year-old daughter, Amaya.
In the trade, the Aces acquired the rights to center Amanda Zahui B. Los Angeles also swapped its second-round pick in the 2024 WNBA Draft in exchange for Las Vegas’ 2024 first-round pick.
In her first public comments after the trade, Hamby wrote on Instagram she was "heartbroken" after being "discriminated against."
According to her statement, the team promised her things to "entice" her to sign a contract extension before last season and accused her of doing so while knowing she was pregnant.
Without naming anyone specifically, Hamby also said the Aces questioned her commitment to the team, calling her a "question mark" because she would "get pregnant again." This came as she was fully committed to workouts and expressed the desire to return in the 2023 season without missing any time.
"To be treated this way by an organization, BY WOMEN who are mothers, who have claimed to be 'in these shoes,' who preach family, chemistry, and women’s empowerment is disappointing and leaves me sick to my stomach," Hamby wrote in the statement.
Hammon has two adopted children. In a profile by Time Magazine that was released Monday, she agreed that she was one of the moms referenced in the statement. Still, Hammon maintained she and the Aces acted appropriately.
"Probably feels like very much of a betrayal from me, probably more than anyone, because I had such a great relationship with her. On a personal level, it hurt her feelings and it hurt mine. It's the worst part of my job, cutting a player or trading a player," Hammon said.
The profile mentions that trading Hamby was a "business decision" to allow the Aces to sign other players. Shortly after trading Hamby, the Aces signed two-time WNBA champion Candace Parker.
Tuesday afternoon, the Aces released a statement, strongly rebuking the league's decision.
"The Las Vegas Aces are deeply disappointed by the outcome of the WNBA investigation. Our actions have always been consistent with our responsibility to hold ourselves to the highest professional standards, and the facts we presented were consistent with these standards. The well-being of our players and their families has and will always be at the forefront of who we are," the statement said. "The WNBA’s determinations about Becky Hammon are inconsistent with what we know and love about her. Becky is a caring human being who forges close personal relationships with her players. We stand behind Coach Hammon as she continues to lead the Las Vegas Aces."
On Sunday, Hamby checked in for the Sparks during a scrimmage with the Seattle Storm, nine weeks after giving birth to her son.
Dearica Hamby played 20 minutes in the Sparks' 76-69 preseason loss to the Storm. Hamby, who had 3 points and 6 rebounds, said her return to the court eight weeks after giving birth was faster than even she expected, but, "I wanted to play." pic.twitter.com/PzlDm4VkNA
— Thuc Nhi Nguyen (@thucnhi21) May 15, 2023
The Sparks and the Aces are scheduled to meet for two games this season, on May 25 and 27. Should Hammon serve the suspension for the Aces' first two regular-season games, she would not be on the bench for the May 25 meeting in Los Angeles.