Sky file complaint with WNBA after coach James Wade says ref used racially derogative term

The Chicago Sky filed a complaint with the WNBA office after head coach James Wade, who is Black, said a white official referred to him as "boy," historically a derogatory term for Black men, during Tuesday's loss to the Atlanta Dream, Shannon Ryan reported for the Chicago Tribune.

Wade mentioned a lack of foul calls after the 90-83 loss at Chicago's Wintrust Arena. When asked in the post-game media availability if he meant the calls were unfair, he brought up the reference by the official.

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"I don't speak on that. Just watch the game. If you saw the game, then you'll see it," Wade said. "I'm gonna tell you what. I'm a grown man and I like being — I have a family and I have a responsibility. I have a team, I have a responsibility and so when someone tells one of my players to, hey, 'Explain to your boy,' I take that personal.

"But that's what I been dealing with. That's how people see me. Don't feel sorry for me. I'm fine."

A Sky spokesperson told the Tribune players heard the official use the term and Wade saw the exchange. Wade is one of three Black head coaches, two of whom are men, in the WNBA.

The term "boy" has historically been used as a derogatory and demeaning reference to Black men that's meant to put them in their "place" below them in status.


Wade, who is also the team's general manager, is in his third year coaching the Sky. He won the 2019 Coach of the Year award in his first season as head coach and signed a four-year contract extension in January.

Wade unhappy with refs after Dream loss

James Wade
Chicago Sky head coach James Wade said an official referred to him as "boy." (Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)

Wade was unhappy with the officiating on Tuesday night, telling reporters on the call the Dream players were "allowed to be" aggressive.

"Everybody, just watch the game. It's ridiculous. I don't know how good of a coach I can be (and) I don't know how effective I can be if you look at the game and see how it is," Wade said. "I'm not going to try to victimize anything, but I take it personal. It's personal. We don't have any margin for error. And all you have to do is just watch the game. It's ridiculous, it's shameful and it's disgraceful.

"Both teams work hard and people don't see that and it's not appreciated. The players work hard. Even though we haven't practiced at 5-on-5 since the season started, the players they work hard. When they come out and try to do the right things and it gets penalized just because of what colors you have on, then I think it's ridiculous."


Wade said he told his players to stay professional, even if it's difficult when others aren't "being professional."

The Sky (2-2) had only one more foul call than the Dream and went 27-for-28 from the line. The Dream (2-2) were 20-for-25. Chicago and its opponents have been nearly even in foul calls every game, though it doesn't necessarily mean foul calls were fairly.

The Sky (2-2) played a third game without three of their starters. Candace Parker only played in the season opener and has been out with an ankle injury. Allie Quigley is out with a hamstring issue. And Stefanie Dolson is with the Team USA 3v3 Olympic qualifying basketball team.

Chicago hosts the Los Angeles Sparks (0-2), Parker's old team, on Friday. Sparks head coach and general manager Derek Fisher is the only other Black man coaching in the league.


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