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Sky coach James Wade confirms WNBA is investigating use of racist term

The league has yet to issue a statement even though the Sky and Wade expressed concern over an official’s use of a derogatory term.

Sky coach and GM James Wade confirmed the WNBA is investigating the use of a racist term toward him by an official.
Sky coach and GM James Wade confirmed the WNBA is investigating the use of a racist term toward him by an official.
Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Sky coach/general manager James Wade confirmed Thursday that the WNBA is investigating an incident during the team’s 90-83 loss Tuesday against the Atlanta Dream in which an official used the derogatory term “boy” when referring to him.

The league has yet to issue a statement even though the Sky and Wade expressed their concern. The Sky hoped the league would take swift action.

“I want accountability,” Wade said.

A Sky spokesperson said Wade was interviewed by league security Wednesday.

Wade added that he didn’t know if there was racist intent behind the official’s words — “Hey, explain to your boy” — but he and his team felt disrespected.

Diamond DeShields was the player to whom the official made the statement, and team staff and other players heard it. DeShields also was interviewed by league security, a team official said.

Wade said he never has heard an official refer to a coach in that manner when talking with a player.

“My players look to me for counseling, advice and direction,” Wade said. “I’m directing this ballclub. I’m not their boy.”

This isn’t Wade’s first troubling encounter with an official.

During a 2019 game against the Washington Mystics after Astou Ndour-Fall was ejected for accidentally bumping into a referee, Wade was accused of being aggressive by an official. The statement made Wade and his coaching staff uncomfortable.

The head official that night apologized to Wade and concurred that the incident was unacceptable.

Wade feels supported by his team and the Sky organization. He said he had a good conversation with a representative from the league Wednesday.

Though the WNBA and NBA share a security division, the investigation is being led by the WNBA league office.

Rookie Stephanie Watts said the team is supporting Wade and expects the league to take action.

“We’re hoping for better results,” Watts said. “We’re hoping that there is action taken because it’s unacceptable.”

The Sky are preparing for their game against the Los Angeles Sparks at Wintrust Arena on Friday.

Candace Parker (ankle) and Allie Quigley (hamstring) are listed as out for the game.