‘Lied To, Bullied, Manipulated And Discriminated’ | Dearica Hamby Isn’t First WNBA Star Whose Pregnancy Conflicted With Corporate

Image Credit: Ethan Miller / Getty

WNBA star Dearica Hamby wants the world to know that your career might be on the line if you get pregnant in the WNBA. Hamby, who signed a multi-year contract extension with the Las Vegas Aces on June 29, 2022, was traded to the Los Angeles Sparks by Jan. 21, 2023. The trade was for a 2024 first-round draft pick in exchange for Sparks Center Amanda Zahui B. and a 2024 WNBA Draft second-round pick.

She took to social media to express her frustrations with the ball club.

Did Vegas Aces Trade Hambry Because Of Pregnancy?

“Being traded is a part of the business. Being lied to, bullied, manipulated and discriminated against is not,” Hamby posted. “I have had my character and work ethic attacked. I was promised things to entice me to sign my contract extension that were not followed through on. I was accused of signing my extension knowingly pregnant. This is false.

“I was told I was a ‘question mark’ and that it was set that I would ‘get pregnant again’ and there was a concern for my level of commitment to the team. I was told that ‘I didn’t hold up my end of the bargain’ (Because ‘no one expected me to get pregnant in the next two years’). Did the team expect me to promise not to get pregnant in exchange for the contract extension? I was asked if I planned my pregnancy.”

She added, “When I responded, ‘no,’ I was then told that I ‘was not taking precautions to not get pregnant.’ I was being traded because ‘I wouldn’t be ready and we need bodies.’ I planned to play this season, and I have expressed my desire to play this season. I have pushed myself throughout my entire pregnancy and have continued to workout (basketball included) on my own and with team staff – even on days where it was uncomfortable to walk, only to be inaccurately told that ‘I was not taking my workouts seriously.’ “

The Ace

Hamby, a forward, was a veritable “ace” for Las Vegas. She won a WNBA Championship with the team in 2022, is a two-time WNBA Sixth Woman of the Year (2019, 2020), a two-time WNBA All-Star (2021, 2022), and played in the WNBA Finals in 2020. She was a Las Vegas Ace through and through, starting her WNBA career with the San Antonio Stars in 2015, and staying with the team when the franchise relocated to the desert and rebranded as the Aces.

It was all good just three seasons ago.

During the final seconds of an Aces home game against the Chicago Sky, Hamby made a crucial steal in the waning seconds of the fourth quarter. She shot the ball from between half-court and before the three-point line, dropping it perfectly in the hoop to win the game when they were down by two points. The move is now affectionately known as “The Heave.”

WNBA Stars Historically Fear Getting Pregnant 

Hamby is not the only star player who has felt the pressure during pregnancy. Skylar Diggins-Smith revealed in 2019, that she played the entire 2018 season while pregnant, without the Dallas Wings’ knowledge. Diggins-Smith tweeted that the Wings accused her of quitting on the team for not returning quickly from maternity leave.

“Not knowing I took two FULL months away from everything because of postpartum depression,” she tweeted. “With limited resources to help me be successful mentally/physically.”

Diggins-Smith eventually requested a trade to the Phoenix Mercury before the 2020 WNBA season. The team has a long-standing practice of providing extensive amenities for working mothers, like a child-care facility. Former WNBA player and U.S gold medalist turned Las Vegas Aces general manager Natalie Williams adopted twins in 2001, knowing that birthing children could have been detrimental to her playing career.

“I’d always wanted to adopt,” Williams said to Deseret News in 2001, while a player with the Utah Starzz. “But I thought I wanted to have a child first, go through that. But then I thought adoption now is perfect for me because I’m playing (professional basketball), and then I can have (more) kids when I’m done.”

Just before the WNBA’s inaugural season in 1997, Sheryl Swoopes announced she was pregnant, effectively changing the game for women’s basketball. The Houston Rockets and her sponsor Nike had to deal with this new reality. Instead of lamenting a natural biological function as bad for business, they marketed Swoopes as an athlete-mom hybrid. It worked for Swoopes, who came to the Houston Comets six weeks after giving birth and led the team to the inaugural WNBA championship.

Candace Parker Pregnancy Rocks WNBA

In 2009, when Candace Parker was taking over as the face of the league from Lisa Leslie, she announced her pregnancy with daughter Lailaa. It disrupted the league’s planning around her, but was supposed to set a new standard for working moms.

Then-WNBA Commissioner Donna Orender said to The New York Times in 2009, that her initial reaction to Parker’s pregnancy was initially a “quiet sigh of resignation.”

“Here she is, front and center, and people are discussing the timing of her reproductive life,” Orender said to The New York Times. “That’s a very public discussion that hasn’t happened before. I do think that’s a good thing for women who go through these issues often in silence or alone. Candace can be a very usable symbol of how you can have a family and a career.”

The WNBA, now under the auspices of commissioner Cathy Engelbert, will have to contend with Hamby’s sentiments and set a new tone for women balancing playing professional basketball with motherhood.

Rhett Butler is a Boxing Writer Association of America Journalist, Play-By-Play Commentator, Combat Sports Insider, and Former Mixed Martial Arts and Boxing Promoter. The New York City native honed his skills at various news outlets including but not limited to: TIME Magazine, Money Magazine, CNN's Wolf Blitzer Reports, and more. Rhett hosts the PRITTY Left Hook podcast, a polarizing combat sports insider's take featuring the world's biggest names.