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Aces vs mercury | aces being investigated for being creative | franchise sports media
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FSM Feature: Aces Being Investigated For Being Creative

Franchise Sports Media

 

The WNBA has launched an investigation into the LVCVA’s sponsorship deal with the LAs Vegas Aces. Is it another case where the Aces are being targeted for being too bright, or are the other WNBA teams crying foul?

 

Aces Being Investigated For Being Creative | Franchise Sports Media
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The WNBA launched an investigation into the Las Vegas Aces offseason after the LVCVA (Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority) announced that they are giving the Aces a sponsorship deals totaling $1.2 million for members of the WNBA’s two-time defending champions (or $100,000 per player).

The league announced the investigation on Saturday.

The sponsorship deal covers the 2024 and 2025 seasons. It does not violate the league’s salary cap because they were made with individual players and not in connection with their team.

However, it still could be deemed a financial advantage that other franchises cannot offer, potentially violating the “spirit of the rules.”

[For] the LVCVA to see our value and to help close that pay gap, it says a lot about the character of the people that are there,” three AcesAlysha Clark said. “So, I’m extremely grateful. I’m honored to be able to represent this organization and this city and be able to put on for the city, give back to this city, and pour into the community, and that’s what they did for us. It was really, really special.

The WNBA’s collective bargaining agreement prohibits teams and their affiliates from entering into an understanding in which a “sponsor, business partner or third party pays or agrees to pay compensation for basketball services (even if such compensation is ostensibly designated as being for non-basketball services) to a player under Contract to the Team.

 

Aces Being Investigated For Being Creative | Franchise Sports Media
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The offer’s really simple,LVCVA CEO and President Steve Hill said. “We want you to just play; we want you to keep repping Las Vegas, and if you get a three-peat, that’d be icing on the cake.”

Most sponsorship people go after the top two people,” Aces head coach and Pro Basketball Hall of Famer Becky Hammon said. “In this situation, from what I understand, is [the LVCVA] wanted the whole team. So they went and called individuals’ agents. I don’t know the details. I have nothing to do with it. The Aces have nothing to do with it.

Is it wrong for the LVCVA to reward those who help create tourism in Las Vegas? Steve Hill has been at the forefront of helping Las Vegas become the Sports and Entertainment Capital of the World. He led the charge for the Raiders, and now the Oakland A’s, relocating to Vegas. Hill is now rewarding the back-to-back WNBA champions for their work on the hardwood.

Aces‘ point guard Chelsea Gray said: “They’re investing in us, and so they put their money where their mouth is. We’ve done so much for the city and having fun doing it. It was a great moment for me and my teammates, of somebody actually putting funds behind, saying that they’re supporting and they want to have our back.

Is this a case where the LVCVA found a loophole in the WNBA CBA and took advantage of it? Are the Aces players being singled out for the LVCVA being more innovative than other cities’ businesses for not doing the same thing, and does it give them an advantage? Lastly, is the WNBA feeling embarrassed for not taking care of the players financially and off the court?

 

Does this deal give the Aces an advantage over other WNBA teams?

 

Aces Being Investigated For Being Creative | Franchise Sports Media
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The deal potentially gives the Aces an advantage in signing free agents if other teams cannot match the offering.

The WNBA’s average player salary increased from $102,751 to $147,745 ahead of the 2023 WNBA Draft. While it is a raise, it is also a far cry from what other athletes make in their respective sports.

The extra $100,000 is also a significant addition to what the top players make. A’ja Wilson and Kelsey Plum are the highest-paid Aces at $200,000 each, and Gray is right behind at $196,267.

Definitely more than my salary,” said rookie Kate Martin, who makes $67,249. “I’m super thankful. Sometimes, I have to pinch myself to make sure I’m not dreaming, but this is very much real life, and that is what all these players deserve. I wouldn’t be getting this crazy bonus if it weren’t for how great all of these players have played in the last few years.

When we’re talking about growing the game … taking that next step, it can’t always be ‘investigate, investigate, investigate.’ It has to be like, ‘We’re trying to move the needle. We’re trying to make things better for franchises, for players, for teams,‘” Wilson said.

 

Aces Being Investigated For Being Creative | Franchise Sports Media
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Many WNBA players have endorsement deals, some of which eclipse their WNBA salaries. Indiana Fever rookie sensation and number one overall pick Caitlin Clark earns $76,535 from the Fever but has an endorsement deal with Nike worth a reported $28 million.

So I ask, what is the difference between the LVCVA sponsorship and other sponsorships WNBA players have? Is it because the WNBA is not paying what they deserve and (once again) has an egg on its face?

There has been much criticism of WNBA player salaries in recent years for being too low, even though the salary structure is borne through collective bargaining between the league and the players’ union. If the WNBA were to deny this deal, it would seem out-of-touch and potentially sexist.

This could give other WNBA owners a new way to create revenue for their team, even if this deal was between the LVCVA and the player’s agents.

If the other WNBA owners were to use third parties, including possibly government agencies, they could essentially subsidize athlete pay and see a rise in player pay without having to fund it.

That leads to my next question…

 

Are Mark Davis and the Aces being punished for thinking outside the box?

 

Aces Being Investigated For Being Creative | Franchise Sports Media
Photo Credit: TQ/Franchise Sports Media

Last season, the Aces were penalized by the WNBA following an investigation that found the team violated the league’s rules regarding impermissible player benefits and workplace policies. The WNBA took away the Aces‘ 2025 first-round draft pick and suspended head coach Becky Hammon for two games in 2023.

We get [things] from our agents all the time; they wanted it to be a big moment because it’s something that’s never happened before,Aces star A’ja Wilson said. “I don’t understand the investigation; I haven’t dived into it yet. I just looked at my phone [after the game] and was like, ‘Oh, wow, just another day in the life of the Aces.’ We can’t ever start just normal, it’s always going to be something, and that’s OK.

The Aces are arguably the WNBA’s most popular team and are a team full of personality, from their superstars to role players. The LVCVA is trying to capitalize on them, just as the WNBA should be.

For a league that JUST announced that teams will be flying charter flights by May 21st and has seen tremendous growth throughout the past few years, the WNBA needs to sit this one out.

It’s an embarrassment that the teams had to fly commercially and, if they booked a charter flight, were fined for doing so. Yet, the WNBA still found a way to mess this up.

 

Aces Being Investigated For Being Creative | Franchise Sports Media
Photo Credit: TQ/Franchise Sports Media

Several teams have been required to take commercial flights for their first few games. The only exceptions were the Chicago SkyIndiana Fever and Connecticut Sun-New York Liberty games, in which the teams used bus rides due to proximity.

The Liberty’s Breanna Stewart, a two-time WNBA champion and two-time MVP, called the league out over it.

2 out of 5 WNBA teams traveling today are on WNBA charters – and that’s a win,Stewart posted on social media when the announcement was made. “It could be a bigger one if the W allowed teams who were not offered League charters to secure their own until a full 12-team solution is ready.

Aces owner Mark Davis, known as a player’s owner with both his teams, the Aces and the Raiders, would undoubtedly make sure his team flew charter.

We did this the right way,” Hill told the Associated Press. “We did something that we think works for Las Vegas, and I think it’s great for the players. We did this without the team. It was our idea, and any questions they ask, they’ll find that out.”

The WNBA will conduct an investigation and determine if the LVCVA’s sponsorship deal is in good faith with their salary cap and CBA. No matter what the investigation finds, the WNBA has to look at the City of Las Vegas and the Aces for being forward-thinking and trying to invoke the type of change the league has needed for a long time.

The WNBA should not punish the Aces or the City of Las Vegas for being creative, and they should applaud them.

Remember, “A bird sitting in a tree is never afraid of the branch breaking because her trust is not in the branch but in her wings.” 

 

Get all your Las Vegas Aces coverage right here at FSM. Thanks for visiting FranchiseSportsMedia.com for your Las Vegas Sports news today.

 

Franchise Sports Media. Las Vegas sports news about Las Vegas Sports teams.

– Joe Arrigo – Franchise Sports Media

Follow Joe on all social media: @joearrigofsm

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