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Longtime WNBA director Renee Brown stepping down

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NEW YORK (AP) Renee Brown has been at the WNBA since its inception. Twenty years after joining the league, the WNBA’s chief of basketball operations and player relations is stepping down this month.

“It’s probably one of the most difficult decisions I made in my life,” Brown told The Associated Press in a phone interview Monday. “I love the WNBA, and was fortunate 20 years ago that Val (Ackerman), David (Stern), Russ (Granik) and Adam (Silver) allowed me to come in at the start of this league. Walking away, it’s sad but yet joyful at the same time.”

Brown is one of a handful of people still involved in the league since its beginning in 1997.

“Twenty years in, people didn’t think we’d be here,” Brown said. “I knew we would be. It’s been fun watching the talent grow. I think the WNBA has been in great shape from the minute we came here. A lot to do with what the NBA gives the WNBA. From the beginning, I was very confident once the NBA allowed us to put the W in front of its name, we’d be well taken care of.”

In her current role and through her work with the WNBA’s competition committee, Brown has directly influenced how the game is played. This past season, teams set records for points per game, field goals made and attempted, field goal percentage, free throws made, free throw percentage and assists.

Brown has also been involved with USA Basketball since 1996. She has served on its board of directors and chaired the selection committee of the senior national team.

“Renee has selflessly served USA Basketball as a coach, committee member and passionate supporter,” said Carol Callan, director of women’s basketball for USA Basketball. “She first served as an assistant coach during the historic 1995-96 USA national team yearlong preparation for the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta.”

The U.S. hasn’t lost in the Olympics since Brown got involved, winning six consecutive gold medals.

“Any time I put on a USA T-shirt or a sweatshirt, I put it on with so much pride recognizing we’re all representing our country,” she said.

Brown said she let WNBA President Lisa Borders know of her decision at the start of this season.

“Renee’s contributions to the WNBA’s growth have been immeasurable,” Borders said. “It has been a pleasure working alongside her during this landmark season and I will continue to rely on her expertise. She will always be part of the WNBA family.”

Brown said she will continue to be involved in basketball, joining the Jr. NBA Leadership Council. The Nevada native plans to stay in New York for now.

“My goal is to stay in New York and look for other opportunities involved in the game, sports or women empowerment,” Brown said. “Take the skills I’ve learned here and use them somewhere else. It’s an exciting time for me. I thought I’d be here three to four years. Twenty years later, I’m here and it’s been great. I’m looking forward to my next journey.”

AP source: WNBA’s Stars negotiating sale to Las Vegas buyer

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The San Antonio Stars are in negotiations to be sold and relocated, and a person with knowledge of the situation tells The Associated Press the buyer is based in Las Vegas.

The team announced the discussions on Thursday night. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because neither the team or the WNBA have disclosed information about the buyer.

“Negotiations with a potential buyer of the Stars team are ongoing,” WNBA spokesperson Dina Skokos said in a statement. “Once those discussions are concluded, we will provide additional information.”

The Stars are one of five pro teams owned and operated by Spurs Sports & Entertainment, including San Antonio’s NBA team. The Stars released a statement on Twitter announcing the negotiations and offering their “deepest gratitude” to team employees and fans.

Any sale needs to be approved by the WNBA Board of Governors.

The franchise moved to San Antonio from Utah in 2003. Led by Becky Hammon, the Stars reached the WNBA Finals in 2008. The team has finished with the league’s worst record each of the past three seasons. San Antonio has a talented young nucleus with Kayla McBride, Moriah Jefferson and Kelsey Plum.

The team also has the top chance to get the No. 1 pick in next year’s WNBA draft.

Las Vegas has hosted the world’s biggest boxing and mixed martial arts events for decades, but the growing desert gambling mecca has become a coveted target for professional team sports over the past few years.

The expansion Vegas Golden Knights began their first NHL season this month as the city’s first franchise in a major North American pro sport. In March, the NFL formally approved the Oakland Raiders’ relocation to Las Vegas by the 2020 season to occupy a proposed new stadium on the Las Vegas Strip.

 

WNBA withdraws fines for player protests

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NEW YORK — The WNBA has withdrawn its fines for teams that showed support of citizens and police involved in recent shootings by wearing black warmup shirts before games.

WNBA President Lisa Borders said in a statement Saturday the league was rescinding penalties given to the Indiana Fever, New York Liberty, Phoenix Mercury and their players for wearing the shirts during pregame protests, which began after shootings in Minnesota and Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Each organization was fined $5,000 and players were each given a $500 penalty because WNBA rules stated that uniforms may not be altered in any way. The normal fine for uniform violations is $200.

“While we expect players to comply with league rules and uniform guidelines, we also understand their desire to use their platform to address important societal issues,” Borders said. “Given that the league will now be suspending play until August 26th for the Olympics, we plan to use this time to work with our players and their union on ways for the players to make their views known to their fans and the public.”

The fines seemed to galvanize the players, who have used postgame interview sessions and social media to voice their displeasure. There has also been public criticism of the fines, including from NBA star Carmelo Anthony.

The Rev. Al Sharpton said early Saturday his organization, the National Action Network, would pay the $500 fines. He called the penalty “unacceptable.”