Sparks guard Riquna Williams has been suspended without pay for 10 games because of alleged domestic violence, the WNBA announced Tuesday.
Williams was arrested in late April and charged with two felony counts, one of which involved assault of someone with whom she had a relationship. Williams faces one count of aggravated assault with a firearm. She pleaded not guilty to both charges in May. Her next hearing date is scheduled for Aug. 16.
The WNBA conducted an investigation into the incident and spoke to Williams, several witnesses and a panel of experts on domestic violence.
“Based on the investigation, consultation, and a careful weighing of all the facts and circumstances, the WNBA determined that a 10-game suspension was appropriate,” the league said in a statement. “Among other factors, the WNBA took into account the nature and seriousness of the conduct at issue, including the involvement of a firearm. The WNBA will also require Williams to participate in counseling.”
Her suspension begins Thursday when the Sparks play host to the Dallas Wings. She isn’t eligible to return until Aug. 22 against the Indiana Fever.
“The Sparks have cooperated fully with the league’s investigation,” the team said in a statement. “As an organization, we abhor violence of any kind and specifically take domestic violence allegations seriously. We we will provide whatever resources we are allowed to help Riquna learn and grow from this unfortunate situation.”
The Sparks are 5-1 with Williams in the starting lineup, and she’s averaging 11.5 points and 2.7 assists in 15 games this season. After injuries to Candace Parker, Alana Beard, Maria Vadeeva and Alexis Jones, the Sparks have only seven players available for the game against the Wings.
The players’ union said it would file a grievance on Williams’ behalf.
“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,” said Terri Jackson, executive director of the union. “Riquna has not had a fair opportunity to fully defend herself. We are immediately filing a grievance and will seek the arbitrator’s review.”
Williams’ suspension surpasses the seven-game suspensions given to Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner and Dallas Wings forward Glory Johnson after their 2015 domestic violence arrests.
The WNBA dismissed Sparks forward Rhonda Mapp in 2003 and gave her a two-year suspension for violating its drug policy. Mapp never returned to the league.
Associated Press contributed to this report.