According to Orlando Castaño, the agent for Los Angeles Sparks guard Riquna Williams, NBA legal counsel is urging the team to suspend his client under the Player Conduct and Discipline clause of the WNBA’s Collective Bargaining Agreement.
Williams was arrested in April in Palm Beach County, Florida on charges of “burglary with assault or battery and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon without intent to kill.”
Williams was held in Palm Beach County Jail on $20,000 bond before being released. Since then, she re-signed with the Sparks, leaving many WNBA fans to question the league’s and the team’s decision to allow her to play. In July, High Post Hoops obtained and released video of the accuser, Alkeria Davis, and two men giving statements to police of the alleged assault, which amplified the outrage that Williams has been allowed to play.
The WNBA does not have a specific policy on domestic violence. Even though Williams was arrested and charged for crimes, her court case is ongoing and she has not been convicted of any crime, which means she cannot be suspended under the clause requiring players to “comply at all times with all applicable federal, state, and local laws.”
However, Castaño claims the NBA (not the WNBA) is urging the Sparks to suspend Williams under Article XIV of the WNBA’s Collective Bargaining Agreement, Player Conduct and Discipline, which states (emphasis by Swish Appeal):
Section 1. Player Obligations. Players shall at all times conform their conduct to standards of good citizenship, good moral character, and good sportsmanship and shall not do anything detrimental or prejudicial to the best interests of the WNBA, their Teams, or the sport of basketball. Without limiting the foregoing, players shall also be required at all times to comply with all terms and provisions of this Agreement; to perform all services required under their Standard Player Contracts or any WNBA or Team Marketing and Promotional Agreements; to comply at all times with all applicable federal, state, and local laws; to be neatly attired and present a professional appearance when in public (including all player appearances, travel days, and travel to and from the arena); and to follow all reasonable rules and regulations of the WNBA and their Teams promulgated in accordance with this Agreement.
But Castaño takes issue with suspension given that Williams has neither admitted to the allegations nor been convicted of the charges against her. When Brittney Griner was suspended in 2015 following a “mutual combat” arrest for domestic violence, it was after she had pleaded guilty to the charges that the WNBA, under then-president Laurel Ritchie, handed down the suspension. In that incident, Glory Johnson pleased not guilty and was suspended prior to resolution of her court case.
On May 27, the WNBA issued the following statement on Riquna Williams’ arrest:
The matter is under active investigation and we have nothing to report at this time.
This is in keeping with the league’s track record of not commenting on active investigations. Swish Appeal reached out to the WNBA for confirmation that suspension is in the works, but the request to comment was declined.
Williams has not spoken to the league during the course of its investigation.
The WNBA has the authority to suspend a player before the conclusion of a criminal case and without the player having admitted to the allegations against her.
This story will be updated as more information becomes available.