This Is How Caitlin Clark Is Saving The WNBA From Stupidity.

All sides of the WNBA’s Caitlin Clark jealousy narrative

An in-depth look at the contentious topic that everyone in sports is talking about.

Most of the sports world cares about women’s basketball right now.

Caitlin Clark has received a ton of the credit. Many have coined it “The Caitlin Clark Effect.”

But a period that should be celebrated by the sport has birthed one of the most contentious topics in sports media. Clark has had a different kind of effect — one that has many believing that she’s being mistreated by some players in the WNBA.

This topic has gone on for quite some time so that now there have been several layers added to the discussion. A conversation about Clark’s ability to translate from the college to the pros has turned into questions of mistreatment and even a conversation about race playing a factor in her success off the court.

Let’s take a look at everything that’s going on in what has become a new and polarizing chapter of The Caitlin Clark Effect.

The origin of the Caitlin Clark discourse

Clark played four years of college basketball at Iowa University. She was massive name in women’s college basketball since she stepped onto the scene in 2020, but started catching eyeballs of mass media during the 2023 Women’s March Madness tournament as she led Iowa to a championship appearance.

Her long range sharpshooting — akin to the NBA’s Stephen Curry — was exciting for fans to watch, so much so that many doubters or haters of women’s basketball made a complete 180-degree turn after seeing her sniping ability.

But Clark was also a fiery competitor who wasn’t afraid to show her emotions or talk a little trash.

In the 2023 NCAA National Championship Game, Clark and Iowa lost to Angel Reese and the LSU Tigers. Reese threw some of her own gestures toward Clark, including pointing at her ring finger and an infamous “You Can’t See Me” gesture that Clark had done earlier in the tournament.

DALLAS, TEXAS - APRIL 02: Angel Reese #10 of the LSU Lady Tigers reacts in front of Caitlin Clark #22 of the Iowa Hawkeyes towards the end of the 2023 NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament championship game at American Airlines Center on April 02, 2023 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Ben Solomon/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)

Angel Reese (left) points at her ring finger as the LSU Tigers began to celebrate their win in the 2023 NCAA Women’s National Championship over Caitlin Clark and the Iowa Hawkeyes.

Ben Solomon/Getty Images

Clark said after that she didn’t believe Reese needed to be criticized for the gesture, but it still led to a social media firestorm.

This past season, Clark broke records on the court — including the all-time NCAA scoring record — while also bringing a ton of additional eyeballs to Iowa contests. 

The Hawkeyes made their way to the NCAA Championship Game for the second year in a row — beating Reese and the Tigers in the process. Clark’s presence helped push the viewership for the NCAA to record heights as the Championship game averaged nearly 19 million viewers, over four million more than the Men’s Championship Game.

Clark and the Hawkeyes lost in the tournament finale again, but University of South Carolina’s head coach Dawn Staley made sure to acknowledge Clark’s impact in the middle of her team’s celebration.

“I want to personally thank Caitlin Clark for lifting up our sport,” Staley said. “She carried a heavy load for our sport and it just is not going to stop here on the collegiate tour, but when she is the number one pick in the WNBA Draft, she is going to lift that league up as well.”

Staley’s comments came as chatter already began to surface about Clark’s college legacy. Two-time WNBA MVP Breanna Stewart, who also won four National Championships with UConn, said that winning a National Championship is necessary to be considered one of the greats.

Diana Taurasi, who many consider to be the greatest women’s basketball player of all-time, also said in April that she believes “reality is coming” for Clark when she enters the WNBA.

Many believed that this was a sign that veteran players were disrespecting Clark. While Taurasi walked back her comments about Clark, it planted the seeds of discourse about her treatment that have grown even more since Clark entered the WNBA.

The beginning of Clark’s career in the WNBA

On April 15, Clark was selected with the first overall pick in the 2024 WNBA Draft by the Indiana Fever. A month later, and about five weeks after the NCAA Championship Game loss to South Carolina, Clark made her WNBA debut.

She’s played 11 games since entering the league — and each one has been a rollercoaster. Clark’s averaging 15.6 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 6.4 assists per game, which are great numbers especially for a rookie, but her efficiency is off as she’s shooting just 35.7% from the field and 29.7% from beyond the arc while averaging 5.4 turnovers.

The Fever are also just 2-9 to start the year, though they have been marred by a difficult schedule including a front loaded schedule that has seen them play at least two more games than any other team to this point.

But Clark’s treatment by players on the court has been put into question. Clark has been on the receiving end of big hits from several players, including from Stewart during her third career game which were clipped and circulated on social media.

This all came to a head on Saturday, June 1, during Clark’s first head-to-head game against Angel Reese and the Chicago Sky.

In the third quarter of the Fever win, Clark was hip checked by the Sky’s veteran guard Chennedy Carter. This video was clipped on social media, with many using it as proof of the mistreatment that Clark was receiving from older players.

Carter received a lot of the vitriol, especially after she declined to answer any questions about Clark during the press conference. She even responded to a post on Threads by criticizing Clark’s on-court impact.

Reese was seen cheering on the bench after Clark was knocked down, which also led to some criticism thrown her way.

The Sky’s No. 7 overall pick did not show up to answer question in the press conference after the game, which led to a $1,000 fine for her and a $5,000 to the Sky organization. Carter’s foul was also upgraded to a Flagrant 1.

On Monday, June 3, the Sky’s head coach Teresa Weatherspoon put out a statement about the incident.

“Chennedy got caught up in the heat of the moment in an effort to win the game. She and I have discussed what happened and that it was not appropriate, nor is it what we do or who we are,” Weatherspoon’s statement read in part.

The media response in Clark’s defense

The defense of Clark has been immense among media members and social media alike. Before the incident with the Sky, JJ Redick and LeBron James were some of the bigger names to speak out to defend Clark, which led to Charles Barkley agreeing on “Inside The NBA.”

“You women out there, y’all petty man,” Barkley said. “Hey LeBron, you’re 100% on these girls hating on Caitlin Clark. Y’all petty, girls. I expected men to be petty cause we’re the most insecure group in the world. Y’all should be thanking that girl for getting y’all ass private charters. All the money and visibility she’s bringing to the WNBA. What she’s accomplished — give her her flowers. Stop being petty all you women out there … Caitlin Clark, thank you for bringing all that money and shine to the WNBA.”

While Barkley clarified that he was referring to media members hating on Clark rather than players, even more players came to Clark’s defense that were pointed towards WNBA veterans.

Chiney Ogwumike checks Charles Barkley on comments about treatment of Caitlin Clark

On Monday, Pat McAfee defended Clark on his show by telling media members to recognize the impact of Clark above anyone else in the rookie class. In the process, he referred to Clark as a white b—.

“Just call it for what is — there’s one white b— who is a superstar,” McAfee said.

A lot of people did not take kindly to McAfee’s rant, including Sky player Diamond DeShields.

What everyone else in the media is saying

But not everyone has come to the defense of Clark.

There’s also a large contingent of people saying that the physicality is all a part of the game and that some are blowing the violence out of proportion.

Some pointed out that Carter’s hit was clipped and that it came after there was some chirping from Clark as well.

A common refrain is also that many media members and fans are unaware of the physicality in women’s basketball, and are speaking based off their first few times watching the game.

ESPN’s Elle Duncan, who covers the WNBA, gave her thoughts about the media voices who are speaking on the Clark issue.

“If you are new and you don’t have the capacity yet to talk about storylines within the W because you just don’t know enough, that’s okay,” Duncan told Bomani Jones on “The Right Time.” “But what you shouldn’t do is because you just want to lend your voice to the conversation in general, keep rehashing the same tired, boring, dumbass, fabricated storyline that all of these women are bitter and can’t stand Caitlin Clark.”

Las Vegas Aces coach Becky Hammon and two-time MVP A’ja Wilson also spoke on the issue with Clark in a media availability last week.

“I think she’s amazing,” Hammon said. “Our league loves her. We’re just doing our job … I think this narrative of everybody hating on Caitlin Clark. And even the black and white thing — knock it off. It’s not there. It’s not there. So shut down the noise. And by the way, what is she, 22? She’s a 22-year-old woman with a lot of pressure. She’s not perfect. She’s a rookie in this league. Back off.”

What Caitlin Clark has said

Clark has constantly been asked about the treatment she’s received from other players in the WNBA. It’s clear she believes that players have been physical with her.

“At this point, I know I’m going to take a couple of hard shots every game,” Clark said after Saturday’s win. “It is what it is, I don’t know.”

Last week, before the incident with Carter, Clark said that she believes that opponents are able to do some things to her that the referees might not let fly with other players.

“I think everybody’s physical with me,” Clark said after the Indiana Fever’s loss to the Los Angeles Sparks on Tuesday. “They get away with things that probably other people don’t get away. But that’s just the fact of the matter. This is a very physical game. You’re going to get pressured, that’s just professional basketball. I think it is what it is, honestly.”