LOS ANGELES — Riquna Williams was shooting around with her teammates as usual after practice at L.A. Southwest College on Wednesday, the day after the WNBA announced that it was suspending her for 10 games without pay for her alleged role in a domestic violence incident that occurred in December in Florida.
The Sparks guard will remain with the team while she serves the suspension, Coach Derek Fisher said.
She was arrested on April 29 and faces felony charges involving the alleged assault of a woman with whom she had been in a relationship and allegedly threatening another person with a firearm. Williams has pleaded not guilty.
She was an unrestricted free agent at the time of her arrest, before the Sparks re-signed her on May 15 despite her pending legal matters.
With Cathy Engelbert, the league’s first commissioner, scheduled to begin her tenure Wednesday, the WNBA banned Williams for almost a third of the 34-game regular season, until the Sparks’ Aug. 22 home game against the Indiana Fever.
Terri Jackson, the Women’s National Basketball Players Association’s executive director, told the Associated Press that the association plans to file a grievance and seek an arbitrator’s review.
Stated Jackson: “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.”
Fisher said the Sparks have to respect the league’s decision and will remain supportive of Williams.
“These are not easy discussions or easy topics,” the Sparks’ first-year coach said. “We’re all sensitive to that from a lot of different perspectives. We just want to try and make sure, as an organization, that as best as we can to show respect and love to everybody, and we don’t want to disregard any people that are involved in (this) difficult matter.
“But Riquna is still going to be around our group as much as possible. We love her and support her. None of us are perfect, we each have done things that people could judge us or criticize us on, but Riquna is a strong woman, she’s going to learn and be better from this.”
Like Fisher, forward Chiney Ogwumike spoke carefully about the matter, expressing support for her teammate – and resolve to continue to play well despite challenges presented by an ever-diminishing roster.
With Candace Parker (ankle), Alana Beard (hamstring), Alexis Jones (knee) and Maria Vadeeva (knee) all out with injuries, the Sparks (9-7) could have just seven available players when they take the court for an early 12:30 p.m. game Thursday against the Dallas Wings (5-12) at Staples Center.
“Just being on the inside, when people go through personal situations, it’s tough,” Ogwumike said. “But for her to deal with that, our whole team has really been proud of her, because we have jobs at the end of the day. And for her to come ready, be team-first, and be a selfless player and to also help us get wins while dealing with the situation – which is unfortunate – is not easy for anyone to deal with.
“And for us, it’s one of those things where we have to think about, as a team, ‘OK, we’re down another player? Who’s gonna step up?’”
Derek Fisher on the WNBA’s 10-game suspension of Sparks guard Riquna Williams. pic.twitter.com/1ZW9SUXtfO
— Mirjam Swanson (@MirjamSwanson) July 17, 2019