• Loading stock data...
Tuesday, July 23, 2024
Join us this September for Tuned In Request to Attend

Is the Caitlin Clark Phenomenon Posing Issues for the WNBA?

  • A flagrant hip check on Caitlin Clark sparks a debate on the state of the league.
  • A highly compressed schedule adds to the Fever’s issues.
The Indianapolis Star

Is perhaps the biggest force to hit the WNBA now becoming a problem? Just three weeks into the 2024 season, the Caitlin Clark phenomenon has given way to a rapidly escalating level of infighting within the league, heightened scrutiny over officiating, and public criticism over the rookie star’s skills. 

Rough Play and Tough Talk

The weekend sports conversation was dominated by a flagrant body check that Chicago Sky guard Chennedy Carter levied upon the Indiana Fever’s Clark in a Saturday game, knocking the rookie to the floor. After the foul was retroactively raised to a flagrant 1 status, the heated debate continued across sports-talk radio and television and, most critically, within the WNBA itself. 

Fever general manager Lin Dunn took to X after the game, posting that “there’s a difference between tough defense and unnecessary-targeting actions! It needs to stop! The league needs to ‘clean up’ the crap! That’s NOT who this league is.” To this end, the Fever have submitted multiple plays from prior games for league review involving hard fouls on Clark. 

Carter, meanwhile, posted on Threads that she’s not all that impressed with Clark’s game, writing “besides three-point shooting what does she bring to the table, man?”

Mounting Questions

Amid the still-growing number of hot takes, the WNBA is now facing many pressing questions. After Clark has fueled a series of meteoric increases in attendance and television viewership—including the Fever already topping their 2023 attendance total—to what degree should the historic economic driver be protected on the court? Will the heightened physicality and trash talking drive away fans, particularly the new ones just drawn in by Clark? And is jealousy and all of the attention Clark has received over her income, including a Nike deal reportedly worth $28 million, contributing to the drama playing out with other WNBA players?

On the latter point, former NBA guard Austin Rivers says envy within the WNBA is definitely a factor—and needs to stop.

“For the longest time, the WNBA was synonymous with losing money, their athletes not being compensated properly, their athletes not being treated properly, and their brand of basketball … not really garnering proper attention,” Rivers said in a four-minute video post on X. “Now, this woman comes along and brings the world in and is now giving you that proper attention and respect. … And instead of being appreciative and acknowledging that, you guys are coming at her with these hate-ass comments.”

Too Much Too Soon?

Part of the intense focus around Clark and the Fever also stems from a simple quirk of the schedule, as Indiana played 11 games in the span of just 20 days, becoming just the second team in WNBA history to do so since 2007. Some of these schedule anomalies stem from a compression created by the upcoming Paris Olympics, when the WNBA will take a monthlong break. But the Fever’s 11 games played leads the league and is nearly twice the six played to date by the two-time defending WNBA champion Las Vegas Aces. 

“These guys are not just physically exhausted, they’re mentally exhausted,” said Fever coach Christie Sides after a Sunday blowout loss to the New York Liberty, a game in which Clark scored just three points. “It’s just been a lot. This is different than anything we’ve ever experienced.”

Copy Link
Link Copied
Link Copied

What to Read

Dancers Among Several Labor Groups Threatening to Strike During Paris Olympics

Garbage collectors, police officers, and airport workers have called for better pay.

Comcast Scores With NBA Deal and Olympics, but Financial Issues Brew

The NBC Sports parent company details its new NBA rights deal, even before a league announcement.

WNBA Smashes Ratings Record With Competitive All-Star Game

The game was the league’s highest rated in more than 20 years.

WNBA All-Star Weekend Signals League’s Growth, Delivers Action

The WNBA All-Star weekend was a showcase of the league’s rise driven by rookies.
podcast thumbnail mobile
Front Office Sports Today

TNT Matches Amazon’s Offer, “Inside the NBA” Given New Life


Featured Today

The FTC Noncompete Ruling Could Change MMA As We Know It

Fighters could see their options—and earnings—grow.
July 21, 2024

O No Canada: The Next Big Sports Betting Scandal Could Erupt North of the Border

‘It’s open-season for match-fixing up there.’
July 20, 2024

The Road to the Return of ‘EA Sports College Football’

This summer, the biggest development in college sports is virtual.
Apr 15, 2024; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Caitlin Clark poses with WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert after being selected with the number one overall pick to the Indiana Fever during the 2024 WNBA Draft at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.
July 16, 2024

Women’s Sports Merch Is a $4 Billion Market, but Supply Isn’t Meeting Demand

Retailers can’t make women’s sports apparel fast enough.

Sports TV Ratings Tend to Dip During Election Season, but Money Will Flow

Prior history suggests the upcoming election season will again prove disruptive to sports viewership.
July 21, 2024

After World Cup Buzz, Major League Cricket Finds Its Footing in the U.S.

Attendance is tracking to potentially surpass the 70,000 fans from last year.
July 22, 2024

Chicago Sky Finally Ditching Suburban Rec Center As Practice Facility

Players have left and overlooked Chicago for teams with more investment.

TopSpin 2K25 Brings the Legends of Tennis to Your Living Room

2K sports is reviving a classic with TopSpin 2K25.
July 18, 2024

Open Championship CEO Raises Alarm Over Golf’s Financial Future

The Open Championship is offering a record $17 million purse.
July 18, 2024

WNBA Appears Set to Extend Season to 44 Games in 2025

The Chicago Sky told season-ticket holders they ‘expect approval’ for change.
July 18, 2024

Loyal WNBA Fans Hit With Enormous Season-Ticket Price Hikes

Some season-ticket holders are seeing their prices doubled.
July 18, 2024

MLB Attendance and Ratings on the Rise at Midway Point

MLB will enter the season’s second half with gains in attendance and national TV viewership.