In the Sky’s first game since an official used a ‘‘disrespectful’’ word to refer to coach and general manager James Wade, telling forward Diamond DeShields, ‘‘Hey, explain to your boy,’’ they fell to the Sparks 76-61 for their third consecutive loss.
Entering the game, players and Wade said that language has no place in the WNBA. The incident took place Tuesday, but the league has yet to comment. Wade confirmed Thursday the WNBA is investigating the matter.
‘‘I want to be respected just like my peers,’’ Wade said. ‘‘I don’t believe that situation would have happened to [Storm coach] Dan Hughes or [Mystics coach] Mike Thibault or any other coaches in the league.’’
Wade is one of three Black head coaches in the WNBA. Wings coach Vickie Johnson is the only Black female head coach in the league. Wade said other coaches had reached out to him in support.
Wade was hired to lead the Sky before the 2019 season. He coached them to a third-place finish in the Eastern Conference and was voted the WNBA coach of the year, becoming the first Sky coach to earn the honor.
After the Sky’s loss Tuesday to the Dream, Wade told reporters, ‘‘That’s how they see me.’’
The first time he said he experienced disrespect of this magnitude from a WNBA official was in 2019, when he was accused of being aggressive. He said it was the most uncomfortable moment of his pro career.
That incident got his attention, but this was different because the official involved one of his players.
‘‘I can’t imagine them going to [Mystics star] Elena Delle Donne and saying, ‘Tell your boy to do this,’ ’’ Wade said. ‘‘Or going to [Storm star] Breanna Stewart and saying, ‘Tell your boy to do that.’ I don’t want to be a victim, but this is just how it is.’’
On Friday, the Sparks came to Wintrust Arena looking for their first victory of the season. A big third quarter helped them get it. The Sparks outscored the Sky 23-10 in the third to give them an 18-point lead heading into the fourth.
The Sky (2-3) came out of halftime firing, but after forward Kahleah Copper was called for a flagrant-1 foul, it seemed all momentum shifted to the Sparks.
‘‘It was a challenging turning point for us in the game,’’ DeShields said. ‘‘We felt like we could’ve gone on a decent run at that point.’’
A point of emphasis for the Sky was limiting their turnovers. Entering the game Friday, they were averaging 21 turnovers through four games. But the Sky — who remained winless at home — finished with 27 turnovers, their highest mark of the season. Thirteen of the turnovers were steals by the Sparks.
The Sky host the Sparks again Sunday.
‘‘It’s us,’’ Copper said. ‘‘We have to focus on us and taking care of the ball.’’