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WNBA Investigates $100K Bonuses to Las Vegas Aces Players

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The WNBA has launched a case into the $100,000 bonus payments made to each Las Vegas Aces player that was revealed on Friday, the league confirmed the investigation late Saturday afternoon.

The bonus payments are being made by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA), without any requirements aside from playing basketball.

The bonus is a rare sponsorship opportunity initiated by the authority’s president and CEO, Steve Hill, who got into the Aces’ locker room on Friday and presented the players with the scholarship opportunity. The team seemed to accept on the spot with shouts of joy and happiness as they shifted their chairs closer to Hill.

The LVCVA worked in a closed arena with each player’s agent and structured the deals similarly to the Name, Image and Likeness deals done in college according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal. The authority President and CEO told the Review-Journal that the players will become part of a group of more than 100-plus influencers his agency reaches out to regularly.

The WNBA didn’t comment further on its investigation.

ESPN confirmed that the sponsorship does not go against the WNBA’s salary cap because the authority did not orchestrate the sponsorship with the team. But other clubs may likely ask questions about the fairness of the sponsorship and whether it doesn’t meet the requirement of the cap rules.

A deal like that would likely give the Aces tremendous merit in landing free agents if other teams are not able to match the offering.

In the W, $100,000 is a huge amount. Using Ace’s draftee Kate Martin as a very good example. The Iowa product and an ex-teammate of Caitlin Clark did not think that she would be drafted but heard her name called during the second round. Spotrac listed Martin’s salary as $67,249. This sponsorship boosts that to $167,249.

The Aces have experienced a load of victory during the last few seasons, winning back-to-back WNBA trophies. They are the first franchise to achieve such victory since the Los Angeles Sparks won their in 2001 and 2002.

Off the court, the team said on Friday that it has sold out 15 of its 20 regular-season home matches. Las Vegas was one of a handful of teams in the W who moved locations from their typical home arena to a bigger one to meet the requirement created by Caitlin Clark and the Indiana Fever. The Aces usually play at Michelob Ultra Arena, which contains a 12,000 sitting capacity but will host Clark and Fever on July 2 at T-Mobile Arena with 18,000 seats.

In 2023, the WNBA took away the Aces’ 2025 first-round draft pick after suspending coach Becky Hammon for two consecutive games following an investigation that found the franchise goes against the league rules regarding impermissible player benefits and workplace policies.

The league, at the time claimed that the club violation entailed promises of impermissible benefits during contract extension negotiations for former Aces star Dearica Hamby. The Respect in the Workplace violation stemmed from comments Hammon made to Hamby as regards the latter’s pregnancy.

Las Vegas had its first victory on May 14, defeating the Phoenix Mercury, 89-80, and defeated the Los Angeles Sparks 89-82 on Saturday afternoon.

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