Sparks fire General Manager Penny Toler in wake of locker room rant

Sparks General Manager Penny Toler and coach Derek Fisher on draft day last April. Jevone Moore/Full Image 360.
Sparks General Manager Penny Toler and coach Derek Fisher on draft day last April. Jevone Moore/Full Image 360.

The Los Angeles Sparks relieved longtime General Manager Penny Toler of duties Friday in the wake of a profanity-laced post-game speech to the team two weeks ago that also included racial slurs, according to players.

Displeased with the team’s effort in Game 2 of the WNBA semifinals, Toler unleashed a fiery address to players that she said was intended to motivate them. In an ESPN story Thursday, Sparks players said Toler called them names and used the “N-word” several times. Los Angeles went on to lose the third game of the series, which ended their season.

In a statement, the organization’s managing partner and governor, Eric Holoman, acknowledged Toler’s 20 years at the helm.

“On behalf of ownership and the entire Sparks organization, I’d like to thank Penny Toler for a successful and historic tenure with the organization,” Holoman said. “Penny is a foundational figure in the growth of the WNBA and helped lead our franchise to perennial playoff success and multiple titles. We wish her nothing but the best moving forward.”

Holman will serve as interim General Manager while the Sparks conduct a national search for Toler’s replacement.

The league promised to investigate the locker room incident when the news broke, but commissioner Cathy Engelbert announced Friday that such actions would be suspended since Toler had been let go.

“The type of language reportedly used has no place in our league,” Engelbert said in a prepared statement. “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.”

Coach Derek Fisher, also under fire for playing All-Star forward Candace Parker only 11 minutes in Game 3, reportedly argued with Parker and All-Star forward Nneka Ogwumike about game adjustments, according to the ESPN piece. No action has been taken against Fisher.