WNBA

WNBA investigating Las Vegas Aces after every player received $100,000 in sponsorship

WNBA investigating Las Vegas Aces after every player received $100,000 in sponsorship

The WNBA is investigating the two-time defending champion Las Vegas Aces after every player on the roster received a $100,000 sponsorship deal.

On Friday, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority announced it would sponsor every player on a two-year deal that nets the player $100,000. The organization posted a video on social media of leadership telling the players as well.

In the video, tourism authority president and CEO Steve Hill told the players “the offer’s really simple: we want you to just play, we want you to keep repping Las Vegas, and if you get a three-peat, that’d be icing on the cake.’

The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported every player signed a contract that will have them “reach mutually agreeable opportunities for appearances on Las Vegas’ behalf,” and they will get gear to wear to promote the city.

However, each player signed a contract to “reach mutually agreeable opportunities for appearances on Las Vegas’ behalf.” The LVCVA will also provide players with Las Vegas-centric gear that they will be expected to wear to promote the city.

A Las Vegas Aces logo is shown on center court after the team’s 89-82 victory over the Los Angeles Sparks on Saturday.

The deals were brokered directly with each player’s agents, the authority said, and not through the team so it would avoid breaking the WNBA’s salary cap rules. The team had no knowledge of the deal, according to the authority. However, a WNBA spokesperson confirmed to USA TODAY Sports the league has opened an investigation into the matter.

Why is WNBA investigating Las Vegas Aces?

The league did not specify why it is investigating the Aces, but it likely could be tied to whether the deal actually violates the salary cap, despite the sponsorship being similar to a name, imagine and likeness (NIL) deal for a college athlete. ESPN reported the league would look into if the deal “violates the spirit of the cap rules,” in that it would give the team a recruiting advantage and an extra incentive for players to sign with Las Vegas.

The WNBA salary cap is $1.4 million, and the deal with the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority totals $1.2 million for the team.

The deal also is more money than half of the roster makes on their WNBA contract; six of the 12 players on the roster make under $100,000, according to Spotrac. A’ja Wilson and Kelsey Plum are the top earners at $200,000 each, while rookies Dyaisha Fair and Kate Martin will make $67,249 this season, the lowest on the team, according to the website.

Guard Sydney Colson, who according to Spotrac makes $76,535, said on social media it is “a life-changing investment.”

“We’re SO appreciative and love representing this city!” she said.

Aces coach, players react to investigation

Reports of the investigation surfaced during Las Vegas’ home win over the Los Angeles Sparks on Saturday. After the game, head coach Becky Hammon was asked about the deal. She noted how the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority wanted the whole team to be sponsored and no team staff or front office personnel were contacted.

“From what I understand, is they wanted the whole team. So they went and called individuals, agents,” Hammon said. “I don’t know the details. I have nothing to do with it. The Aces don’t have anything to do with it. It’s just odd, but that’s basically what happened.”

Wilson said she learned about the investigation after the game and was puzzled by it.

“I don’t understand the investigation,” Wilson said. “I haven’t dived into it yet. I just looked at my phone and was like, ‘Oh, wow, just another day in the life of the Aces.’ We can’t ever start just normal, it’s always going to be something, and that’s OK.”

Wilson added on social media, “What happened to growing the game?”

Las Vegas was under WNBA investigation before the 2023 season. Hammon was suspended for the first two games of the season without pay and the team lost a 2025 first-round draft pick after the league ruled the Aces violated the workplace policies and league rules regarding player benefits. The WNBA said the Aces promised impermissible benefits in contract extension negotiations with former forward Dearica Hamby, and Hammon made comments to Hamby in relation to her pregnancy.

Las Vegas, which is attempting to go for the first WNBA Finals three-peat since the Houston Comets won the first four league titles in 1997-2000, is 2-0 this season.

Contributing: Jeff Zillgitt

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: WNBA investigating Aces for $100K sponsorship for every player

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