The Sparks finished atop the Western Conference with a 22-12 regular-season record. But they were swept in three games by the Connecticut Sun in the postseason. ESPN reported Thursday that Toler entered the Sparks' locker room after the loss on Sept. 19 and launched into an obscenity-laced speech that included racial slurs. Toler, who is black, acknowledged using the slurs but told ESPN they weren't directed at any of the players. She also said she shouldn't have used racial slurs.
WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert said there will be no further action by the league on the locker room incident because Toler is no longer employed by the team. "The type of language reportedly used has no place in our league," Engelbert's statement said. "The WNBA takes pride in being one of the most diverse leagues in professional sports that fosters an inclusive and respectful environment.
"We thank Penny for her contributions to the WNBA through her service to the Sparks organization and as a player over two decades." In Game 3 of that series, first-year coach Derek Fisher benched the entire starting five near the end of the third quarter, including Candace Parker, Nneka Ogwumike and Alana Beard. ESPN reported that the decision may have had to do with Toler's comments after Game 2.
Holoman thanked Toler for her tenure with the team that included 20 years as GM. The Sparks won the WNBA championship in 2001, '02 and '06. Toler played for the Sparks from 1997 to 1999 and scored the first basket in WNBA history. After retiring in 1999, she immediately became GM and began assembling the roster that led the Sparks to their first league title in 2001.
Holoman called Toler "a foundational figure" in the growth of the league and wished her the best in the future.