The WNBA suspended Los Angeles Sparks guard Riquna Williams for 10 games for what it described as a “domestic violence incident," the league announced Tuesday. Williams was arrested in April and charged in connection with an incident that occurred months earlier at the Florida home of an ex-girlfriend.
The criminal proceedings involving Williams are still going on, according to the WNBA. The 29-year-old pleaded not guilty in May to felony charges of burglary with assault and battery and aggravated assault with a firearm. She was initially set to have a court hearing on June 6, but that hearing was pushed back to Aug. 16, about three weeks before the regular season ends.
“The WNBA conducted its own internal investigation into this matter, including interviews of Williams and several witnesses,” the league said in a statement, which noted that it also consulted with domestic violence experts.
“Based on the investigation, consultation, and a careful weighing of all the facts and circumstances, the WNBA determined that a ten-game suspension was appropriate,” the statement said.
According to a police report (via the AP), the incident occurred at a Palm Beach County residence in December. Williams allegedly hit the woman in the head and pulled her hair during the encounter. A man and his 10-year-old son were at the scene and tried to break up the fight, police said (via Sports Illustrated), and afterward Williams got a gun from her car and pointed it at the man.
“You’ll get all 18,” Williams was alleged to have told the man, referring to the bullets in the gun, before she drove away.
Despite her legal issues, Williams was re-signed by the Sparks, with whom she spent the previous two seasons, on May 15, shortly before the season began. A 2015 all-star, she is averaging 11.5 points on .377 shooting, with 2.7 rebounds and 1.7 assists in 25.4 minutes per game this season.
“As an organization, we abhor violence of any kind and specifically take domestic violence allegations very seriously,” the team said in a statement. “We will provide whatever resources we are allowed to help Riquna learn and grow from this unfortunate situation.”
The longest suspension handed out by the WNBA was an effective two-year ban that Sparks player Rhonda Mapp received in 2003 for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. In 2015, the Phoenix Mercury’s Brittney Griner and the Tulsa Shock’s Glory Johnson, who had recently gotten married, were given seven-game suspensions after they were arrested for fighting each other.
The WNBA said that among the factors it took into account in suspending Williams were “the nature and seriousness of the conduct at issue, including the involvement of a firearm.” The league said it would require Williams to undergo counseling.
The players’ union announced Tuesday that it would file a grievance on Williams’s behalf, saying that she “has not had a fair opportunity to fully defend herself.”
“We are disappointed with the league’s actions,” said Terri Jackson, executive director of the WNBA Players Association. “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.”