WNBA Dealing With Multiple Cases Of Domestic Violence Among Players
The WNBA suspended L.A. Sparks G Riquna Williams "without pay for 10 games as a result of a domestic violence incident," according to Mirjam Swanson of the L.A. DAILY NEWS. Williams on April 29 was "charged with two felony counts stemming from an event that occurred in December." The charges "involve the assault of an individual with whom she was in a relationship and threatening of another person with a firearm." She has "pleaded not guilty." As the season and the criminal case moved forward, the WNBA "conducted its own internal investigation, including interviewing Williams and several witnesses and consulting with a panel of experts in the field of domestic violence" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 7/17). The WNBA said that it "took into account the nature and seriousness of the allegations, including the involvement of a gun." The AP's Doug Feinberg noted the league also "will require Williams to participate in counseling." The suspension "surpassed the seven games given" to Phoenix Mercury C Brittney Griner and Dallas Wings F Glory Johnson in '15 for their domestic violence arrests (AP, 7/16).
IN THE DETAILS: THE ATHLETIC's Alex Coffey noted Seattle Storm F Natasha Howard's wife, Jacqueline Howard, has "leveled domestic violence accusations against Natasha on Twitter via a series of photographs, videos and screenshots documenting what she claims to be emotional and physical abuse." The Storm and WNBA are "currently trying to determine" how to proceed. Coffey noted if the WNBA "wants to continue marketing itself as family-friendly, it needs to clarify its response to allegations of domestic violence." It needs to be an "example for other leagues, as well as its own fans, to follow." That means creating specific language in its next CBA that "clearly defines what constitutes domestic violence" and "outlines the procedures in place to address allegations and/or charges of domestic violence" (THEATHLETIC.com, 7/16). SI.com's Michael McCann said the WNBA's lack of an official domestic abuse policy is a "glaring issue for the WNBA now and going forward." McCann said, “It’s surprising, particularly given the association between the WNBA and NBA, where the NBA has really crafted this carefully designed policy with the Players Association. You would think the WNBA and its Players Association would do the same or come up with something similar and it hasn't happened” (“OTL,” ESPN, 7/16).
MAKING A GOOD IMPRESSION: ESPN.com's Mechelle Voepel wrote WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert, who officially starts today, "needs to hit the ground running." All pro leagues "have had to deal with the question of disciplining players even if they are still in the legal process or aren't yet facing charges." There are "legal parameters the league has to respect, but a statement from Engelbert on how seriously the WNBA takes these issues would be a welcomed sign of that leadership." As she integrates herself into the league, Engelbert could also hold a "fan 'forum' in every WNBA city." Minnesota Lynx F Maya Moore decided not to play basketball this year, and if Engelbert "hasn't talked to Moore already, she should." It "doesn't have to about basketball, but just about what Moore is doing now and how she feels." That would "send a message to Moore about her value to the league as a person, not just as a player." Meanwhile, Storm C Breanna Stewart is serving as an "ambassador" for the WNBA while she sits out this season due to injury, but it still "isn't clear exactly what her role is." She has done a "few television interviews but otherwise hasn't really talked to the media" (ESPN.com, 7/16).