The WNBA suspended Las Vegas Aces coach Becky Hammon for two games on Tuesday for comments she made to All-Star forward Dearica Hamby about her pregnancy, but the players’ union said the punishment didn’t go far enough.
The Aces traded Hamby to the Los Angeles Sparks in January, just months after the Aces won a championship and Hamby signed a contract extension. At the time, Hamby wrote in an Instagram post that someone she didn’t identify made “disgusting comments.” She said she was falsely accused of signing a contract extension when she knew she was pregnant and was told she was being traded because “I wouldn’t be ready and we we need bodies”.
She said her commitment to the team was also in question, even though she pushed herself to train during her pregnancy when it was “uncomfortable to walk”. Hamby won the league’s Sixth Woman of the Year award in 2019 and 2020 and was a star for the second time last season.
“The unprofessional and unethical way in which I was treated was traumatic,” Hamby wrote in January, adding that it was particularly disappointing that his mistreatment came from women who are mothers and preach “the family, chemistry and women’s empowerment”.
Hamby, 29, has announced the birth of his son, Legend, in March. She also has a 6-year-old daughter, Amaya.
The WNBA did not detail what Hammon said to Hamby, but said Hammon’s comments violated its respectful workplace policy. The league also said the Aces would lose a first-round pick in the 2025 draft for promising Hamby unspecified ineligible benefits during contract negotiations.
On Tuesday, the WNBA players’ union said the penalties were “far from appropriate”.
“Where in this decision does this team or any other team in the league learn that respect in the workplace is the highest standard and that a player’s dignity cannot be manipulated?” says the union.
In May 2021, then-Connecticut Sun coach Curt Miller was fined $10,000 and suspended for one game for a disgraceful comment he made about weight center Liz Cambage. Miller now coaches the Sparks.
Hammon’s two-game suspension is without pay, but the league has not announced a fine.
The union had called for an investigation after Hamby’s Instagram post on January 21. On February 8, the Aces said in a statement that the league had opened a formal investigation and that the team would cooperate.
Hammon, 46, played in the WNBA for 16 seasons and was inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame last year, in her first season with the Aces. She had spent eight seasons as an assistant coach for the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs and was the first full-time female assistant coach in NBA history. It was often said that she was considered for head coaching positions in the men’s league. The owner of the Aces Mark Davis trumpeted his hiring as an inspirational moment for the girls, as the team would pay him over $1 million, more than any other coach in the league.
In recent years there has been a major push – from players, fans and league officials – for greater investment in the WNBA The league’s latest collective bargaining agreement, signed in 2020, included a wave new or increased maternity-related benefits, including during maternity leave, more spacious housing, a $5,000 child care allowance and benefits for adoption and fertility treatments.