Aces owner Mark Davis denies doing anything ‘illegal’ despite WNBA salary cap investigation

The WNBA’s investigation into the Las Vegas Aces potential salary cap violations has been going on for about two months now, and though there hasn’t been an official update, team owner Mark Davis has finally spoken about the allegations.

During an interview with Tashan Reed of The Athletic, Davis denied that the Aces had done anything wrong, such as giving under-the-table payments to players, and is actually happy that people are talking about giving WNBA players more money (seemingly despite the ongoing investigation into his team).

“It’s tough. I guess the thing is when I came into the league, I made it clear that one of my goals is to get the players more money,” Davis said. “So, it’s not a secret to anybody. I wouldn’t do anything illegal within the framework of the league, but I’m going to do everything I possibly can up to the line without crossing it to get them more money. Obviously, the way that it was reported was that we were giving under-the-table payments, which is absolutely false. If I was another team and we were doing that — giving under-the-table payments — I’d probably be upset, too. Because, again, I saw some of the comments that were made that if they’re doing that, well just let us know that’s the rules and we’ll do it, too. That’s not the case. But anytime that it’s talked about that we want more money for the players or that they think I’m paying them more money, as long as it’s being talked about, I think that’s a good thing.

Las Vegas Aces owner Mark Davis arrives early before Game 4 of a WNBA Final against the Connecticut Sun at Mohegan Sun Arena on Sept. 18, 2022, in Uncasville, Connecticut. (Ellen Schmidt/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)
Las Vegas Aces owner Mark Davis denies that he circumvented the salary cap when trying to convince Dearica Hamby to sign a contract extension. (Ellen Schmidt/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)

The investigation originally began in January after former Aces player Dearica Hamby posted a statement on Instagram following her trade to the Los Angeles Sparks. Due to her pregnancy, Hamby said she was allegedly “lied to, bullied, manipulated, and discriminated against” by people within the Aces organization. She also accused the Aces of failing to deliver on a promise for more money under the table, writing “I was promised things to entice me to sign my contract extension that were not followed through on.”

“Pay-for-play” schemes like the one Hamby described are violations of the salary cap. It’s an attempt to get players more money by using a third party to pay them for doing essentially nothing.

Davis, like New York Liberty owner Joseph Tsai, is committed to pouring money into the Aces to try to grow the popularity of the team and the league as a whole. But the WNBA would probably prefer he didn’t do that by (allegedly) circumventing the salary cap.

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