Aces partner with ACLU Nevada for Commissioner’s Cup games

Las Vegas Aces guard Chelsea Gray (12) celebrates after scoring while the crowd cheers behind h ...

The Aces’ winning ways have put them in position to pick up another paycheck.

As part of their hot start to the 2021 season, the team is 6-0 in Commissioner’s Cup games. This week, they have a chance to defend their record, putting the Aces one step closer to the Final and the purse which comes with it.

“We might as well collect that money,” eighth-year guard Chelsea Gray said.

Their next Commissioner’s Cup game is 6 p.m. Saturday, when they play that the Los Angeles Sparks at Crypto.com Arena, starting a two-game road trip.

Created to honor the WNBA’s 25th anniversary, the Commissioner’s Cup is in its second year of existence, and has received mixed results since its inception in 2021. The in-season competition designates 10 early-season games against conference rivals as Commissioner’s Cup games.

The two teams with the best Commissioner’s Cup records in each conference play one extra game for a chance to win a trophy and a large monetary incentive. Each player on the winning team will take home approximately $30,000 while players on the losing team are given $10,000. The Commissioner’s Cup Final MVP gets an additional $5,000.

Last season the Seattle Storm beat the Connecticut Sun, 79-57, in the first edition of the event with Breanna Stewart named MVP. The Aces finished third in the Western Conference Commissioner’s Cup standings at 6-4, behind the Storm and the Minnesota Lynx.

“We’re competitors,” fifth-year guard Kelsey Plum said. “We fell short of it last year. We watched Seattle play in that game so it’s definitely a motivation for us.”

The Commissioner’s Cup isn’t without its criticism. The additional travel for teams which make the Final complicates their schedule and there is always the threat of an injury in the extra game derailing a team’s championship pursuit.

Plum, Gray and fifth-year forward A’ja Wilson also said they don’t understand why the compensation for winning the Commissioner’s Cup is so much more money than the bonuses they would receive for winning a WNBA Championship. According to the league’s collective bargaining agreement, players receive $11,356 bonus for winning the WNBA championship, while the runners-up get $5,678.

The Aces stars have other motivations to win these Commissioner’s Cup games: Plum, Gray and Wilson said winning the bonus for the players who are on minimum contracts or don’t make as much through endorsements has helped them stay engaged.

“It’s good to have everybody on board, and you get rewarded for it,” Wilson said.

Additionally, this season the WNBA had teams partner with local organizations which protect voting rights for Commissioner’s Cup games. The Aces are working with the ACLU Nevada, and for every win the league donates $2,000. Losses are worth a $500 donation.

ACLU Nevada has already received $12,000 from the WNBA because of the Aces perfect 6-0 record.

“That’s in the back of our minds, of course, when we play these games,” Gray said. “There’s always a bigger purpose.”

The Aces next two games — on the road against the Los Angeles Sparks this week and at the Dallas Wings June 15 — are Commissioner’s Cup games.

Contact reporter Andy Yamashita at ayamashita@reviewjournal.com. Follow @ANYamashita on Twitter.