The league is investigating. Here’s some of what it will hear.
On Saturday afternoon’s ABC broadcast of the WNBA game between the Los Angeles Sparks and Minnesota Lynx, Riquna Williams of the Sparks scored 25 points, serving as a difference-maker in Los Angeles’ 89-85 win.
Williams was signed by the Sparks even after getting arrested and charged, in late April, with multiple felonies stemming from an incident last December. The case is still pending. Williams has entered a plea of not guilty to the charges.
“It has been an eventful offseason from the beginning of the year, with some off-the-court troubles,” ABC broadcaster Ryan Ruocco put it, as Williams headed to the free throw line in the second quarter.
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“In fact, she had a DNP this week in the game against Connecticut because she was down in Florida taking care of a legal matter,” analyst Holly Rowe added. “She had a court appearance, and that has been postponed now until July 3, according to published reports. Riquna Williams playing this game — they didn’t want her to risk getting injured as she flew up to Connecticut that day.”
Rowe added that Derek Fisher had told her: “She’s fine with us. She will take care of those things later this summer.”
Within the broadcast, the focus remained on how this incident impacted Williams’ well-being. To be fair, Williams is the only WNBA player involved here, and thus the primary concern of many watching the game. Moreover, this is a subject that is difficult to address within the drive-by nature of a sideline report or while broadcasting a live event.
Still, the broadcast did not not so much as mention that the “legal matter” stems from an accusation, backed up by three witnesses, including victim Alkeria Davis, that Williams forced her way into a home, repeatedly struck Davis in the head, and after the fight was broken up, threatened another person with a gun.
As Davis said in her sworn statement to police on the night of the incident, “those things”, as Fisher put it to Rowe, include banging on Davis’ car with a skateboard, rushing into a house that wasn’t Williams’ when Davis opened the door to tell her to stop. Soon, Davis said, “she was punching me, pulling my hair.”
Asked how many times Williams hit her, Davis responded: “Like ten times,” while holding the side of her head.
Many of these details have been previously reported, but High Post Hoops has obtained, through a public records request, video of Davis’ statement, which you can view in its entirety here — warning, description of abuse follows:
After two other men broke up the fight, according to Antonio Wilson, Williams pointed a gun at him and said: “I’m going to put all 18 in you.”
Video of Wilson’s statement has also been obtained by High Post Hoops through a public records request, and you can see it in its entirety here:
Also present at the house that night was Antavios Wilson, whose account dovetails with Davis and Antonio Wilson’s. See the full statement from Antavios Wilson here:
The WNBA told High Post Hoops that it is currently investigating the matter. A source familiar with the league’s method said the investigation would follow the path used when Brittney Griner and Glory Johnson were involved in a violent incident back in 2015.
In several ways, however, the two timelines have diverged. The Griner-Johnson incident occurred on April 22, 2015 — by May 15, 2015, the league announced the punishment, a seven-game suspension for both. Neither Griner nor Johnson had been charged with felonies, as Williams is. And while Griner’s legal process had reached a resolution — pleading guilty to misdemeanor disorderly conduct, and entering a diversion program — Johnson’s remained unresolved at the time of suspension, so there is no precedent here that requires the league to wait until the conclusion of legal proceedings.
And of course, that fast resolution meant that neither Johnson nor Griner played until serving their suspensions. Meanwhile, for Williams, it has now been six months since the incident occurred, and six weeks since the arrest.
High Post Hoops was unable to confirm whether the league has spoken to Davis or the other witnesses for its investigation. When High Post Hoops asked Williams last week whether the league had reached out to her, Williams said: “I don’t focus on that. I let my agent, I let Penny and the team around me handle it. My job is to be committed to the Sparks.”
When High Post Hoops asked the Sparks whether general manager Penny Toler, who has still not spoken publicly of her decision to sign Williams, was comfortable with Williams representing the Sparks, a spokesperson for the team referred via email to the original statement, issued on the day Williams’ signing was made public, not attributed to any specific person: “The Los Angeles Sparks are aware of the allegations surrounding guard Riquna Williams. We’re monitoring the situation and will have no comment until the legal process is completed.” A Sparks PR spokesperson also cut off Sparks head coach Derek Fisher from answering a question about Williams during a pregame media scrum in Connecticut last week.
High Post Hoops also asked Williams last week whether Toler mentioned her legal situation when she re-signed, and Williams said: “No, absolutely not. We’re just focused on bringing another championship and you know that’s not the focus. That’s in Florida, I’m here in California, so this is the focus.”
The uncertain nature of it all leads to numerous consequences. There is significant unrest within the league about the fact that Williams is allowed to play, with multiple WNBA figures expressing a range from anger and disgust over it to High Post Hoops.
The league is out of step with other sports leagues like Major League Baseball, which put Phillies outfielder Odubel Herrera on administrative leave pending a league investigation the day after he was arrested and charged with domestic violence, and recently extended it another two weeks as their investigation continued.
The NBA, too, has a joint domestic violence policy negotiated with the NBPA and added to the league’s collective bargaining agreement in 2017.
By contrast, as Terri Jackson, WNBPA Executive Director, explained to High Post Hoops in an email: “The WNBA/WNBPA CBA does not have a domestic violence policy. As with any player concern, the league has informed us of its inquiry into a potential conduct matter.”
Nor has new league commissioner Cathy Engelbert officially started yet, as she concludes her contract at Deloitte and officially starts on July 17. Mark Tatum is serving as interim league leader.
And so it continues. Williams has waived the right to be at all pre-trial conferences, and so her legal journey moves forward, while a case that includes three different witnesses asserting she’s done what she’s accused of moves toward a conclusion.
The league said back in 2015, via then-president Laurel Richie, that “The WNBA takes all acts of violence extremely seriously. It is our strong belief that violence has absolutely no place in society, in sports or in this league.”
Williams, however, continues to have a place in the league. She’s a primary reason the Los Angeles Sparks won on Saturday afternoon.
“So we’ll see how that develops off the floor for Riquna Williams, with her current legal situation,” Ruocco said as Williams ran back up the basketball court on Saturday after making a free throw. “But as of now, on the floor, available, and playing well in this second quarter.”
Sabreena Merchant contributed reporting to this story.
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