On Tuesday, the WNBA issued a statement announcing that Los Angeles Sparks guard Riquna Williams would be suspended for 10 games as a result of an incident of suspected domestic violence in December, which led to Williams’s arrest on April 29 of this year. Williams allegedly broke into a home in Palm Beach County, Florida, attacked her ex-girlfriend, Alkeria Davis, and then threatened Antonio Wilson, the man who helped restrain her, with a gun. Davis said the couple had broken up the month before after five years of on-and-off dating, and that Williams had never been violent before.
In its statement this week, the league said it conducted an investigation independent of the ongoing criminal proceedings, and found enough to suspend Williams under Article XIV of the CBA, which covers personal conduct. The league will also require that Williams undergo counseling as part of the suspension, which begins with Thursday’s game against the Dallas Wings, unless she appeals.
Unlike the NBA and MLB, the WNBA does not have an explicit rule regarding domestic violence, and the league’s handling of Williams’s situation has come under scrutiny over the last couple of months. As outlined by Sports Illustrated’s Michael McCann, police had probable cause to believe that Williams had committed two felonies (burglary with assault or battery, and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon without intent to kill), leading to questions about why she wasn’t suspended pending the outcome of the investigation. The burglary with assault or battery charge carries a maximum sentence of life in prison in Florida.
Yet the league did not suspend Williams until Tuesday, nearly three months after the arrest. Once it did, though, it raised the ire of the players’ union, which argues Williams was not given a fair chance to defend herself, particularly given that she pleaded not guilty to the charges on May 6. In a statement to the AP following the announcement of the suspension, Women’s National Basketball Players’ Association president Terri Jackson said the league should not have suspended Williams before the criminal case was closed:
We are disappointed with the league’s actions. 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.
If it stands, Williams’s suspension will be the longest domestic violence-related suspension in WNBA history, surpassing the seven-game suspensions handed out to Glory Johnson and Brittney Griner in 2015 over their domestic-violence arrests.
Williams’s case isn’t the only domestic violence-related incident the league is dealing with: Seattle Storm forward Natasha Howard was accused by her wife of domestic abuse in a series of tweets over the weekend. Howard denied the claims on Tuesday and filed for divorce. Both the Storm and the WNBA reportedly are investigating.