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Skylar Diggins-Smith accuses Phoenix Mercury of denying her basic needs

Hayden Cilley Avatar
August 3, 2023

Skylar Diggins-Smith’s ongoing war of words with the Phoenix Mercury took another turn on Thursday. Posting on Twitter, Diggins-Smith accused the organization of denying her some basic courtesies a needs.

The post came in response to fans noting that the Mercury had failed to wish Diggins-Smith a happy birthday.

Neither side has offered much information on the ongoing feud so it has been tricky to decipher exactly what’s happening. Last season, Diggins-Smith called former head coach Vanessa Nygaard a clown on Twitter and discussed playing pregnant while not telling anyone.

She has been seen at local YMCA facilities, training with Mercury legend Bridget Pettis to make a comeback to the WNBA after her pregnancy. Here’s a photo of her from late May via Instagram.

Second pregnancy incident in the same season

This isn’t the first time that a WNBA pregnancy has sparked ill will. Los Angeles Sparks forward Dearica Hamby faced a similar situation. After signing a two-year extension with the Las Vegas Aces in June 2022, Hamby endured strange conversations with Aces personnel, per ESPN. The Aces noted that she wouldn’t be ready for the 2023 season, adding that she was “not holding up her end of the bargain” by getting pregnant.

While Diggins-Smith hasn’t raised those specific allegations, the optics of a league that prides itself on putting players and their health first sure aren’t great. They may be hypocritical.

Tweets roared in from across the WNBA space, with many people questioning why this is happening. As of the writing this article, the WNBA and its commissioner, Cathy Englebert, had not commented on the situation.

Similarities between dearica Hamby and diggins-smith

There are similarities between Diggins-Smith’s case and Hamby’s. Both were openly denied basic basketball needs, including trainers, therapists and nutritionists.

The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act of 2023 highlights important points. Title VII of the law illustrates that it “requires covered employers to treat a worker affected by pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions the same as other workers similar in their ability or inability to work.”

The WNBA’s new collective bargaining agreement, ratified in 2020, guaranteed players fully paid maternity leave for the first time in its history, but it does not spell out any rights that players may have to team facilities and amenities.

An example?

A plethora of outcomes are possible from this case. There could be a league investigation into the Mercury, much like what happened to the Aces. One of the more important elements could be the next CBA.

There were reports about the CBA strengthening protection for players on maternity leave. However, with news about Hamby and Diggins-Smith surfacing in the same season, safe to say those protections haven’t been exactly as advertised.

Minnesota Lynx player Napheesa Collier is a recent example. The team allowed her to take as much time off as she needed when she was pregnant. What’s important was that she wasn’t rushed back by the team. Although Collier wanted to return as quickly as possible — as did Diggins-Smith — the Lynx exerted no pressure.

What could happen?

If the league unearths a violation by the Mercury, this should not be swept under the rug or met with a slap on the wrist. This could be a great time to address some underlying, fundamental issues with situations involving pregnancies.

Although Diggins-Smith is postpartum, her recovery is still part of the pregnancy process. The denial of basic needs and amenities is something that can’t be overlooked. This should not be a reason that Diggins-Smith would want out of Phoenix. As of the writing this article, Diggins-Smith and her agent have not commented on the situation.

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