There are already lots of things that hang as clouds over the WNBA.
Its much-ballyhooed pay structure, the looming CBA situation, the fact that it is under-marketed, the nasty comments made by internet trolls whenever someone so much as tweets about the W, and the fact it is under-covered by the media (even though that also appears to be changing).
But one of the larger clouds looks to be the Riquna Williams situation.
That issue is like that stain on the side of our house – a real nasty stain or smudge. We do not want to touch it or go near it, but we know it is there, and as long as it is there it creates a problem that has to be addressed.
Back in April, she was arrested for charges of assaulting her ex-girlfriend at a residence in South Florida. A report said she hit Alkeria Davis in the head and pulled her hair.
A report said two men told Palm Beach County Sheriff’s deputies it took 10 minutes to break up the fight. Also, reportedly among the things said was that Williams grabbed a weapon, pointed it at an individual, and said “you’ll get all 18.”
The incident reportedly happened in December, approximately 4-5 months prior to the arrest.
A court appearance is scheduled for early July.
High Post Hoops obtained video statements from several people involved in the case – including Davis, Antonio Wilson, and Antavios Wilson. The WNBA told High Post Hoops it is following a similar blueprint as in the Brittney Griner-Glory Johnson case.
Their excellent investigative reporting is sure to shed new light on the case and once again bring it to the forefront of consciousness of WNBA followers.
When the Los Angeles Sparks faced the Minnesota Lynx in a nationally televised game on ABC, Williams was a big reason for why LA pulled off the win. She scored 25 points – including some clutch baskets in the game’s latter moments.
While the game may have been the time to focus on Williams’ athletic exploits, one could not help but to think of the case at the mere uttering of her name during the ABC/ESPN broadcast.
Granted – in this country, we are innocent until proven guilty (or at least that’s what the legal system tells us, but there have been numerous cases in the United States that have proven that it may be the other way around and the difference between guilt or innocence may hinge on th color of one’s skin or the status of one’s bank account).
Even with that, it does present a problem for the WNBA. When you have Los Angeles Sparks public relations personnel cutting off head coach Derek Fisher when asked a question about the Williams case, that is when you know a public relations maelstrom is building, especially if the case becomes more damning and the evidence mounts.
Eli Horowitz, who works in Sparks PR, tubthumps on the regular on social media for more media to cover the Sparks and the WNBA. They may be covering his team, but some for the wrong reasons.
It is also a tight situation for a league that bastions itself as pro-women and anti-domestic violence.
While the WNBA says it is investigating the situation, the calls for the league to follow the Brittney Griner-Glory Johnson blueprint in terms of suspensions will only grow louder. And remember how the media treats the WNBA, as Tamryn Spruill of Swish Appeal and The Athletic says like a booty call.
This could be one of those occasions – don’t cover the actual action on the court but cover a salacious story that smells like scandal or otherwise.
Regardless, we’ve seen other leagues act with swifter action when their athletes have had things come up about them. Mark Tatum is still acting as interim commissioner until Cathy Engelbert’s term starts prior to All-Star Weekend. When Engelbert has her first press conference, which will likely be in Las Vegas for All-Star, she will almost certainly be asked a question(s) about the Williams case.
Even though the Sparks are currently in the middle of the pack now of the WNBA, this has the potential to become a distraction as time goes on. With this High Post Hoops report out there, what if the Sparks get inquired more about the Williams case than about Chiney Ogwumike’s play in her first year with Los Angeles, or how Kalani Brown is fitting into the team coming off the bench or Derek Fisher’s ability to find a winning combination of players.
And from a league perspective – it has to do something because we know there are lots of people out there who will stop at nothing to ruin the league’s image. This is exactly a sort of thing that can taint the WNBA’s image. It may not have to go all out as it may have in the Griner-Johnson case or when it fined teams in 2016 for its uniform choice in support of Black Lives Matter, but it has to do something.
It has to be consistent on what it does and it has to do something to let its fans know that this issue is being addressed and it is being addressed in a timely manner.