Sparks fire GM Toler, who admitted to using racial slur
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The Los Angeles Sparks on Friday fired longtime general manager Penny Toler, who admitted in a published report on Thursday that she used a racial slur during a postgame tirade.
Toler recently completed her 20th season as GM of the Sparks. The franchise won three titles (2001, 2002, 2016) during her tenure.
"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," managing partner Eric Holoman said in a statement. "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."
According to ESPN, Toler, who is African-American, entered the locker room after a 94-68 playoff loss to the Connecticut Sun on Sept. 19 and berated the team with obscenity-laced remarks, including the use of the N-word.
"By no means did I call my players the N-word," Toler told ESPN. "I'm not saying that I couldn't have used it in a context. But it wasn't directed at any of my players.
"It's unfortunate I used that word. I shouldn't. Nobody should. ... But you know, like I said, I'm not here to defend word by word by word what I said. I know some of the words that I'm being accused of are embellished. Did I give a speech that I hoped would get our team going? Yes."
The Sparks lost their next game to Connecticut to lose their third straight in the best-of-five series to conclude their season.
After ESPN's report was published on Thursday, WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert said an investigation would be launched. On Friday evening, she said no further action was necessary due to Toler's dismissal.
"With the announcement today by the Los Angeles Sparks that general manager Penny Toler is no longer employed by the team, there will be no further action from the league on the locker room incident reported in the media Thursday," Engelbert said in a statement. "The type of language reportedly used has no place in our league.
"The WNBA takes pride in being one of the most diverse leagues in professional sports that fosters an inclusive and respectful environment."
Toler, a point guard, averaged 10.0 points per game in three seasons as a player for the Sparks from 1997-99. She scored the first basket in WNBA history on June 21, 1997 against the New York Liberty.