Caitlin Clark denounces toxic discourse (2024)

INDIANAPOLIS — Too much of the discourse surrounding Caitlin Clark has ventured far astray from the basketball court.

Every move the Indiana Fever rookie makes — or doesn’t make — becomes an inflection point in the ongoing culture war dominating American politics.

A 71-70 win against the Chicago Sky at Gainbridge Fieldhouse threw gasoline on the raging fire.

When Chicago guard Chennedy Carter fouled Clark prior to an inbound pass in third quarter and several of her Sky teammates celebrated from the bench, it spawned a frantic debate that has dominated most of the month so far.

Some of the dialogue has been instructive, allowing former WNBA stars and others who have covered the league for decades to educate new fans on the game’s history and traditions.

Much of the debate, however, has delved into the realm of conspiracy theories and toxic tribalism.

The worst of it has taken on a racist and sexist tone that has no place in sports or any other walk of life.

Clark has drawn criticism for not speaking out against that narrative, including a social media post from Connecticut Sun guard DiJonai Carrington on Thursday that did not directly name the Indiana rookie but left little room for interpretation.

Asked directly by The Athletic’s James Boyd on Thursday about her name being used to further racist and misogynistic agendas, Clark gave a direct response.

“It’s disappointing,” she said. “I think everyone in our world deserves the same amount of respect. The women around our league deserve the same amount of respect. People should not be using my name to push those agendas. It’s disappointing. It’s not acceptable.”

Clark had been accused of ducking the issue in previous interviews when she said she can’t control opinions others share online and hadn’t paid much attention to the social media discussion.

Her answer to Boyd made clear her stance on the issue, and the 22-year-old undoubtedly would like the focus to shift back to basketball.

That seems unlikely, especially with a rematch against Chicago up next on the schedule.

It’s been a mentally and physically exhausting start to Clark’s WNBA career.

The Fever played 11 games in the first 20 days of the regular season, and she’s been at the center of a seemingly never-ending stream of controversies.

Just as the ire surrounding the Carter incident was subsiding, it was announced Clark was not among the 12 players selected to represent Team USA in this summer’s Olympics – setting off another round of 24-hour talk show debate.

The shooting guard said the snub will serve as motivation heading into the next Olympic cycle and tried to move on.

The Fever (4-10) have had improving fortune on the court.

Indiana finished 3-2 in the WNBA Commissioner’s Cup, beating Eastern Conference rivals Chicago, Washington and Atlanta and clawing back into the WNBA playoff race.

The Fever sit 10th in the 12-team league after Thursday’s 91-84 win against the Dream and have home games ahead against the Sky on Sunday and the Washington Mystics on Wednesday.

With the Olympic break a little more than a month away, Indiana has a chance to build momentum ahead of what it hopes will be a highly competitive second half of the season.

“I’m confident enough to say that — once we kind of hammer home the idea of staying aggressive on defense, every position – I think we’ll have a really good season,” Fever guard Kelsey Mitchell said after the defense shut down an Atlanta rally in the fourth quarter Thursday.

Clark’s fortunes have ebbed and flowed.

She’s averaging 15.6 points. 4.9 rebounds and 6 assists but is shooting just 36.7% from the floor and is averaging 5.5 turnovers.

Clark was 3-of-11 overall and 1-for-6 from 3-point range in the win against Atlanta, though she did finish with seven points, four rebounds, six assists and two blocked shots.

She returned to the court after the game and shot for roughly 30 minutes from all around the floor.

Success on the court remains her primary focus, but Clark undoubtedly has learned she can’t entirely escape the outside noise.

Former UConn and Minnesota Lynx star Maya Moore served as Clark’s role model while she was growing up in Des Moines, Iowa, and she’s proud to take on that role for other young girls today.

If any good can come from the constant debates surrounding her pro career, she hopes it’s in the form of inspiration for the next generation.

“Some of the women in this league were my biggest idols and role models growing up, helping me want to achieve this moment right here that I get to play in every single night,” Clark said. “Just be a kind person and treat them how you would want to be treated. I think that’s very simple.”

Caitlin Clark denounces toxic discourse (2024)
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