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Sparks’ Dearica Hamby reacts to WNBA penalizing Aces after workplace misconduct allegations

TORRANCE — Sparks forward Dearica Hamby said she’s ready to move forward after raising workplace misconduct allegations against the Las Vegas Aces during her recent pregnancy that were substantiated by the WNBA on Tuesday.

“I’ve known since (Monday) but they released it (Tuesday morning). I really don’t have much to say about it,” said Hamby, 29, who gave birth to a son named Legend in March, her second child. “I want to move forward and focus on where I am today. I’m healthy, I’m happy. My son is healthy and I’m going to be playing basketball this season so I want to focus on moving forward, this part of it is over and me and the union will continue to explore my options.”

Los Angeles Sparks All-Star Dearica Hamby shares her thoughts on the WNBA’s investigation into her allegations of workplace misconduct during her recent pregnancy against Las Vegas Aces. Hamby’s motivation to play this season are her two children. Hamby’s 1st game is May 19. pic.twitter.com/nj4jdduAC5

— John W. Davis (@johnwdavis) May 16, 2023

Hamby spoke to reporters after Sparks practice during training camp at El Camino College on Tuesday.

Initially, the two-time WNBA All-Star and 2022 WNBA champion with the Aces, said she wanted to return to prove her former team wrong but now she’s dialed that back and doesn’t want to make her comeback personal against the Aces. Her motivation is now intrinsic, fueled by her children, 6-year-old Amaya and newborn Legend.

“I doubted myself for a little bit but I’m back,” Hamby revealed, who also shared that she was walking around 10 minutes after Legend was born. “A woman’s body is incredible in general.”

Hamby said she’s not going to put too much pressure on herself this season but expects to be ready to play in the Sparks’ season opener against Brittney Griner, Diana Taurasi and the Phoenix Mercury on Friday night at Crypto.com Arena.

“I’m focusing on getting in shape and turning the motor back on for basketball but I’m going to play and I told (Coach) Curt (Miller) to hold me to the same standard you would if I was fully healthy or not recovering from pregnancy. I work hard and I think that will speak for itself,” Hamby shared.

According to the WNBA, the league has taken away the Aces’ 2025 first-round draft pick for “violating league rules regarding impermissible player benefits” in connection with negotiations for an extension for Hamby, who was under contract with the Aces at the time.

The WNBA also suspended Las Vegas head coach Becky Hammon for two games without pay for “violating league and team Respect in the Workplace policies”, which was related to comments made by Hammon to Hamby in connection with Hamby’s recent 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 press release. “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.”

ACES, WNBPA REACT

The Aces issued a strongly worded statement that they are “deeply disappointed by the outcome of the WNBA investigation” and said they “stand behind Coach Hammon.”

“We are committed to supporting all our players to the fullest extent allowed by the WNBA,” the Aces’ statement read. “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 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.”

The impermissible benefits were connected to negotiations for an extension of Hamby’s contract. She had signed a two-year extension with the Aces last June before she was traded.

After she was traded, Hamby posted on Instagram: “Being traded is a part of the business. Being lied to, bullied, manipulated, and discriminated against is not.”

The WNBA Players Association said in a statement that the league’s ruling Tuesday “misses the mark.”

“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? Incidents of misconduct by a team staff cannot always be compared but recent penalties imposed by the League, and an honest view of the facts, demonstrate that this penalty is far from appropriate. While taking away a future draft pick is significant and had never been done in the League’s history, it penalizes a future player by removing an opportunity to compete for a job.”

The WNBPA added that it would support Hamby as she considers the WNBA’s “decision and explores all available remedies.”

BEING TRADED

Las Vegas did not have a 2024 first-round draft pick that could be rescinded because the team traded that first-round pick along with Hamby to the Sparks on Jan. 21, in exchange for the exclusive negotiating rights to Amanda Zahui B. and a 2024 second-round pick.

“My daughter, when it happened, she literally said ‘Are you getting traded because of Legend’,” Hamby said while holding back tears. “It made me cry and for my son. He’ll be able to see it. I don’t think this is the end of it and moving forward and being progressive for working moms and I think the league has been incredible in what they’ve done but we still have a long ways to go in this league and in this world and so I know he will see it.”

The trade took place the same day Hamby filed a complaint and the league began investigating Hamby’s misconduct allegations concerning the Aces.

According to the league, the investigation included interviews with 33 people and a review of text messages, emails and other documents. During the investigation, several people raised additional concerns about the conduct of the Aces during the most recent free agency period. The concerns were not substantiated by the WNBA.

Hamby could have chosen to sit out the 2023 season and receive paid maternity leave. She would have received her full salary but the 6-foot-3 forward wanted to play her ninth consecutive season.

“Because I’m capable,” Hamby explained. “I was physically cleared at four weeks (after giving birth). I did start to rest and as time when on I was sitting at home and I was like this is kind of boring and I want to go back and play basketball. I called (Sparks general manager Karen Bryant) four or five days before (training) camp and said I’m going to be there. The first day I was supposed to be non-contact and I ended up doing contact so I feel good. We had the scrimmage and it was nice to be running up and down the court against another team. Each day I feel myself getting stronger and more into basketball mode.”

Hamby played 20 minutes in the Sparks’ 76-69 preseason loss in Phoenix on Sunday. Hamby scored three points and grabbed six rebounds off the bench behind starters Nneka and Chiney Ogwumike.

“It’s important for players’ voice and thoughts and feelings and emotions and life experiences to be heard. So to be able to see that she was heard in a platform that makes me feel good but also we’re just here to support her,” said Chiney Ogwumike, a former vice president of the WNBPA. “Hanging out with Amaya and Legend has been so much fun … we’re lucky to have her as a team and we will protect her at all costs.”

After the season opener against Phoenix, Hamby’s second and third games of the regular season will be against the Aces at home on May 25 and in Las Vegas on May 27.

“It will probably be emotional for me but I’m locked in on Sparks basketball,” Hamby concluded.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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