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WNBA investigating Aces over bullying allegations

FILE - Las Vegas Aces' Dearica Hamby (5) dribbles up court during a WNBA basketball game against the Phoenix Mercury, on May 6, 2022, in Phoenix. Two-time WNBA All-Star Dearica Hamby was traded by the Las Vegas Aces to the Los Angeles Sparks on Saturday, Jan. 21, 2023. (AP Photo/Darryl Webb, File)

LAS VEGAS (AP) — The WNBA is investigating former Las Vegas player Dearica Hamby's allegations that the Aces bullied and manipulated her for being pregnant, the league said in a statement Wednesday.

It was the first time the league acknowledged publicly it was looking into the situation. The players' union had pushed for an inquiry into whether Hamby’s rights under the league’s 2020 labor agreement were violated, as well as state and federal laws.

The Aces released a statement Wednesday evening that read, in part: “As an organization whose mission is to support and celebrate the tremendously talented women in our league, we take seriously our responsibility to hold ourselves to the highest professional standards. We have been in contact with league investigators to assist with all information requested, and will continue to do so throughout the investigation.”

The statement added the organization wouldn’t comment further “at this time.”

The investigation also includes looking into allegations that the Aces circumvented the salary cap by making under-the-table payments to players, according to a person with direct knowledge of the situation. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because no official announcement has been made.

The salary cap allegations were first reported by the website The Next, which covers women's basketball.

Hamby made her allegations after being traded Jan. 21 to the Los Angeles Sparks. The Aces were trying to clear up salary-cap room to sign two-time MVP Candace Parker, who agreed to a deal Jan. 28.

Hamby agreed to a two-year contract extension with Las Vegas in June. After she was traded, she posted on Instagram: “Being traded is a part of the business. Being lied to, bullied, manipulated, and discriminated against is not.”

Hamby, who is pregnant with her second child, stuck by her words in her introductory news conference with the Sparks.

Aces President Nikki Fargas responded to Hamby's comments Tuesday during Parker's introductory news conference, but didn't use Hamby's name in saying that “our players and their families will always be in the forefront of who we are as a franchise.”

“We are here to assemble the best team possible, and when putting together a team, there are times when trades will happen,” Fargas said. “But that’s for us to also remain competitive. The moves we’ve made, obviously, have given us the flexibility we needed to sign (those) players.”

Las Vegas guard Kelsey Plum, who was elected to serve as first vice president of the WNBPA's executive committee in December, was asked about the allegations levied by Hamby.

“It’s tough. ... I wear a lot of different hats. I’m best friends with Dearica. I am vice president of the players’ association, and I’m a very proud member of the Las Vegas Aces,” Plum said on a Zoom call from USA Basketball training camp in Minneapolis. “Because the investigation is going on, I can’t comment at this time. But in the meantime, I know that I can continue to support my friend and continue to be a proud member of the Aces, and continue to do my job as a VP."

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Feinberg contributed from New York.