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Las Vegas Aces head coach Becky Hammon looks on during a WNBA game against the Dallas Wings on June 5, 2022, in Las Vegas. The WNBA suspended Las Vegas Aces coach Becky Hammon for two games without pay on May 16, 2023, for violating league and team respect in the workplace policies. The violation was related to comments made by Hammon to Dearica Hamby in connection with the player's recent pregnancy.The Associated Press

The WNBA suspended Las Vegas coach Becky Hammon, one of the league’s marquee figures, for two games Tuesday after former Aces player Dearica Hamby said she had been bullied and manipulated for being pregnant.

Hammon, who in her first season last year led the Aces to the WNBA championship, was suspended without pay after a months-long investigation into Hamby’s allegations.

The WNBA did not disclose details, but said Hammon violated league and team “respect in the workplace” policies.

The league also rescinded the Aces’ first-round pick in the 2025 draft for a different issue – a violation of league rules regarding impermissible player benefits involving Hamby, who was traded to the Los Angeles Sparks on Jan. 21.

That means Las Vegas may not have a first-round pick for two consecutive seasons. The Aces traded their 2024 pick.

“It is critical that we uphold the values of integrity and fairness, which create a level playing field for our teams,” said WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert. “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 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 players’ union had pushed for an inquiry into whether Hamby’s rights under the league’s 2020 labour agreement were violated, as well as state and federal laws. The league investigation included interviews with 33 people and a review of texts, emails and other documents.

The union was not pleased with the penalties handed down, feeling they should have been harsher.

“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,” the union said in a statement. “Today’s decision regarding penalties, however, 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?”

Hammon, who spent eight seasons as an assistant coach for the San Antonio Spurs, is considered one of the rising stars in the basketball coaching world. She has been linked to the vacant Toronto Raptors job.

She became the first woman to assume the head duties in an NBA game when Gregg Popovich was ejected during a December 2020 game against the Los Angeles Lakers. Hammon also coached the Spurs to the 2015 NBA Summer League title.

She will be enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in August. She was a six-time WNBA All-Star and became the seventh player to eclipse 5,000 career points.

The Aces open up the season on Saturday at Seattle before playing at Los Angeles against Hamby and the Sparks on May 25. Las Vegas and New York are the clear favourites to win the title, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.

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