The Aces have had one of the WNBA’s most eventful offseasons, adding two-time league MVP Candace Parker and former All-Defensive team forward Alysha Clark—both two-time league champions—to the roster. Las Vegas is coming off of its first league title in 2022. Both players are set to make less than they did with their previous teams last season.
But a new report by Howard Megdal of The Next raises questions about the manner in which the Mark Davis–owned franchise has made those splashy moves and once again sparks discussion about compensation for WNBA players.
Megdal reports that the league is investigating the Aces for under-the-table payment offers to current players and prospective free agents, effectively circumventing the league’s salary cap.
Per the report, a “high-level member” of the franchise would inform the player’s agent that they would then receive a call with a payment offer from a separate company in return for “negligible” work.
The scheme would clearly run afoul of Article XV, Section 1(b) of the WNBA collective bargaining agreement.
“It shall constitute a violation of Section 1(a) above for a Team (or Team Affiliate) to enter into an agreement or understanding with any sponsor or business partner or third party under which such sponsor, business partner or third party pays or agrees to pay compensation for basketball services (even if such compensation is ostensibly designated as being for non-basketball services) to a player under Contract to the Team. 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.”
The allegations come on the heels of the $500,000 fine levied against the Liberty after the team’s owners—Joe and Clara Wu Tsai—paid for unsanctioned chartered flights for the team during the second half of the 2022 season.
“That was the best $500,000 [Liberty owner] Joe Tsai ever spent,” a league source told Megdal. This offseason, the Liberty added a trio of superstars: Jonquel Jones, Breanna Stewart and Courtney Vandersloot.
A similar fine for the Aces could either serve to punish the players as much as any other party or further show that Las Vegas is open for business and will go above and beyond to bring in top talent.
One WNBA front office member told Megdal that other teams may be preparing to follow in the Aces’ footsteps, as the league awaits the findings of the investigation and any consequent penalty.
“Then we know what the rules of the game are, and it’s time to catch up.”