Two recent allegations of WNBA players involved in domestic violence incidents has resulted in one 10-game suspension, and looming disciplinary action. Los Angeles Sparks guard Riquna Williams and Natasha Howard of the Seattle Storm were the two players involved.
Williams received the 10-game suspension for a dispute with an ex-girlfriend. The reserve back court player, who was a free agent last year, but resigned with the Sparks in May. She allegedly struck Alkeria Davis in the head and pulled her hair, according to a police report filed after the December incident.
In April, Williams was arrested on felony charges of burglary with assault or battery and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon without intent to kill, stemming from the December incident. It was also alleged that she pulled a gun out of her car and threatened a man who broke up the altercation.
WNBA Announces Suspension
While the criminal case is ongoing, the WNBA said in a statement that it had conducted its own investigation, including talking with domestic violence experts. They then decided the 10-game suspension was appropriate.
“Based on the investigation, consultation, and a careful weighing of all the facts and circumstances, the WNBA determined that a ten-game suspension was appropriate,” the league said in a statement. “Among other factors, the WNBA took into account the nature and seriousness of the conduct at issue, including the involvement of a firearm.”
Williams’ team agreed with the disciplinary action, issuing a statement saying they were planning on working with their player.
“As an organization, we abhor violence of any kind and specifically take domestic violence allegations very seriously,” the Sparks said in a statement. “We will provide whatever resources we are allowed to help Riquna learn and grow from this unfortunate situation.”
Players Union Objects
Though there has been no public comments from Williams, the Players Union opposed the action taken by the WNBA. Terri Jackson, executive director of the union, said the league acted too quickly.
“We are disappointed with the league’s actions,” Jackson said. “There is an ongoing criminal proceeding and in fairness to the player, the league could have and should have awaited its completion before taking any action. Riquna has not had a fair opportunity to fully defend herself. We are immediately filing a grievance and will seek the arbitrator’s review.”
The suspension is supposed to take place Thursday when the team hosts the Dallas Wings. Dallas currently has the worst record in the Western Conference, while the Sparks are in third place.
Howard Denies Allegation
All-Star forward Howard denied that she was involved in a domestic violence incident. Her wife, however, posted the allegations on Twitter. The Seattle Storm player countered with a statement she released on Tuesday.
“The allegations that have been made against me are very serious. I deny them. I do not take them lightly, but I do not believe that they should be evaluated and decided through social media or through the media generally. That is why I have waited to comment,” Howard said.
Howard added that she has filed for divorce, and is willing to hand over all documentation to the league, saying that she will cooperate fully.
No disciplinary action has been taken by the league, though officials did say they were aware of the situation.