Los Angeles Sparks general manager Penny Toler has been sacked after admitting she used “the N-word” in a locker room speech to players.
Toler, who is black, used the term following a defeat by the Connecticut Sun in the WNBA semi-finals.
The Sparks said the 53-year-old had been “relieved of her duties” but have given no official reason for her dismissal after 20 years in the role.
“It’s unfortunate I used that word. I shouldn’t. Nobody should,” said Toler.
Speaking to ESPN, she added: “By no means did I call my players the N-word.
“I’m not saying that I couldn’t have used it in a context, but it wasn’t directed at any of my players.”
She said she had been “trying to give us obviously a spirited speech to get everybody going”, adding: “I didn’t mean to offend anyone.”
Players were also reportedly upset at the way they were sworn at and threatened with being replaced.
Toler was a founding member of the WNBA. As a Sparks player, she scored the first basket in WNBA history in 1997 and became general manager after retiring from playing in 1999.
The franchise has since made the play-offs 18 times and won three WNBA titles.