Las Vegas Aces owner Mark Davis has strongly denied reports that the organization has offered under-the-table payments to current players and potential free agents, calling them "absolutely false" in a recent interview with The Athletic.
This has been an exciting and tumultuous offseason for the defending champions, who won their first title in franchise history last season by defeating the Connecticut Sun in four games. Over the winter they bolstered both the roster and the board room by signing two-time WNBA champion Candace Parker in free agency and selling an ownership stake to NFL legend Tom Brady.
Along the way, however, the Aces have been the subject of multiple investigations. The first came about as a result of their alleged improper treatment of veteran forward Dearica Hamby. Just before free agency, the Aces made the surprising move to trade Hamby to the Los Angeles Sparks, in what turned out to be a salary dump so they could sign Parker. Hamby, who is pregnant, accused the Aces of "traumatizing" treatment in an explosive Instagram post, and said the organization questioned her commitment to winning after learning of her pregancy. As a result, the league opened an official investigation into the Aces' conduct towards Hamby in February.
Also that month, a report from The Next indicated that the league had begun a separate investigation into the Aces regarding alleged under-the-table payments. Per the report, the Aces would make it known to agents that players could receive a sum of money outside of their contracts from a pre-selected company for "negligable" work. While Davis did not address the Hamby situation, he did offer a lengthy response when asked about the latter report.
"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. So, it's not a secret to anybody," Davis said. "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."
The status of both league investigations remains unclear.
Meanwhile, the WNBA Draft will be held on April 10 and Las Vegas has only one selection, the final (No. 36) pick of the night. The Aces will begin the 2023 season on May 20 against the Seattle Storm.