Phoenix Mercury guard Skylar Diggins-Smith alleged on social media that she was not allowed to use the team’s facilities while on maternity leave.
Diggins-Smith replied to a Twitter/X user who expressed disappointment that the team did not wish her a happy birthday by telling the user that she and the Mercury don’t really have any contact beyond the team paying her salary.
They’re not gonna acknowledge me this year and it’s ok guys. We’re not affiliated unless it’s the checks….per management. I can’t even use the practice facility or any resources. But I still love the X-Factor!! https://t.co/lcDb05fVVg
— Skylar Diggins-Smith (@SkyDigg4) August 3, 2023
Later, she would post that she did not have the same access to team facilities like a massage therapist, strength and conditioning, or team chefs that other players are allowed to use.
When asked about it on Aug. 3, ahead of their game against the Atlanta Dream, Mercury interim head coach Nikki Blue told ESPN, “Skylar is on maternity leave right now and as we do with players on maternity leave, we give them their space.”
When pressed if Diggins-Smith’s allegations were true, Blue responded: “What I’m really excited about is just tonight, like we’re focused. Want to go out there and have a good game against Atlanta.”
Outside of affirming that Diggins-Smith is on paid maternity leave, the Mercury has not commented publicly on Diggins-Smith’s allegations.
The WNBA has had a run of issues with how its teams deal with pregnancy, testing their new collective bargaining agreement.
In January 2023, Dearica Hamby accused the Las Vegas Aces of discrimination against her because she was pregnant. Hamby posted a statement on Instagram giving her side of the story,
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“I was accused of signing my extension knowingly pregnant. This is false. I was told that I was a question mark’ and that it was said that I said I would ‘get pregnant again,’ and there was a concern for my level of commitment to the team. I was told that ‘I didn’t hold up my end of the bargain’ (because ‘no one expected me to get pregnant in the next two years’).”
After an investigation, the WNBA ruled in May 2023 that the Aces violated the league’s rules on workplace policies and impermissible benefits. As a result, the team was stripped of its 2025 first-round pick, and for her role, head coach Becky Hammon was suspended for two games. The league recently won protections for its players in 2020’s CBA, one of its biggest wins was the provision of maternity benefits. Paid leave, child care stipends, larger housing, and overall support for the league’s new mothers were all things the league’s players count as major wins. However, these developments cast doubt on how some of the league’s teams operate under the new CBA.
Speaking to Yahoo about how some teams view pregnancy from a contract situation, retired WNBA player Sue Bird said, “Obviously, we’ve seen it’s put this, I was going to say pressure, I don’t even know if that’s the right word, [but] it’s made teams almost like, pissy, that they have to spend their money on the player and they don’t get their money back on their cap,” Bird explained.
“Which A, you’ll be fine. In a year you’ll be fine. But B, maybe there is something that works for both sides.”
Diggins-Smith is a big reason why the players were pushing for that policy in the first place. In 2019, Diggins-Smith revealed that she had played the 2018 season for the Dallas Wings organization while pregnant. In now-deleted tweets, she alleged that the team had questioned her commitment to the team. Given those sentiments, Diggins-Smith wanted out and chose the Mercury because she perceived them as an organization that cared about the health and safety of mothers on the team. Unfortunately, it appears that the new management and ownership of the Mercury may have put Diggins-Smith back into another fight to receive her full benefits owed under the CBA. The current CBA runs until 2027, but the players can opt-out in 2025 if they want to push for a better deal.