The Las Vegas Aces are under investigation by the WNBA for allegedly offering under-the-table payments to current players and free agents the team has pursued, according to a report by The Next.
The Aces did not comment on the investigation, but The Next said a spokesperson for the league told them there was an investigation in connection with allegations raised in a recent social media post by Dearica Hamby, who was recently traded to the Los Angeles Sparks.
On Jan. 21, Hamby -- pregnant with her second child -- shared on a social media post that she was "traumatized" by "the unprofessional and unethical way" that she was treated by the Las Vegas organization when she was traded. Earlier this month, Hamby was asked during her Sparks' introductory press conference if she would seek legal action against the Aces.
"It's a process that has to happen. For now, I'm going to leave it at what I said in my statement, and the [Players Association] is doing their part right now, and then we'll see," she said.
Sources told The Next that the Aces organization had shown a pattern when working with players' agents. After a phone call between the agent and the team, the agent would allegedly receive another call with an offer for a specific amount of money from a pre-selected company. According to the sources, "the work involved would be negligible."
Article XV of the collective bargaining agreement says a team or team affiliate is not allowed to enter into an agreement in which a third party offers a player compensation for basketball services.
"Such an agreement with a sponsor or business partner or third party may be inferred where: (i) such compensation from the sponsor or business partner or third party is substantially in excess of the fair market value of any services to be rendered by the player for such sponsor or business partner or third party; and (ii) the Compensation in the Player Contract between the player and the Team is substantially below the fair market value of such Contract," reads part of Article XV.
The allegations of under-the-table payments come soon after the defending WNBA champions were looking as a strong candidate to repeat as a superteam this upcoming season. They recently signed two-time WNBA champion Alysha Clark to a two-year, $220,000 deal. They also got two-time MVP Candace Parker to agree to a $100,000 contract, which was $95,000 less than she made with the Chicago Sky last season. Kiah Stokes reportedly re-signed with a one-year, $81,000 deal, even though she made $115,000 last season.
Punishing the team with a voided contract would also mean punishing players. In addition to that, there is a concern about negative publicity. The timing is complicated and definitely not ideal for the league as there have been conversations about low pay in the WNBA, which leads to players having to go overseas like Brittney Griner was doing in Russia when she was detained for 10 months. There is also the conversation of how teams are not allowed to charter flights because the league can't afford it.
Breanna Stewart -- who recently joined the New York Liberty -- tweeted about wanting to figure out how to get the charter travel for the league. She said she would contribute her NIL, posts and production hours, and also asked who else would want to help. It's unclear how that type of sponsorship would work with third parties involved.
All eyes are now on how the WNBA punishes, or doesn't punish, the Aces. The Next said three WNBA front office members said multiple agents have started "pushing other teams to adopt such arrangements already." How the league approaches the punishment will determine how organizations act in the future because if the WNBA allows it to happen or the penalty is weak, teams are "preparing to adapt."
"Then we know what the rules of the game are, and it's time to catch up," one front office member told The Next.