MATTHEWS: Caitlin Clark’s WNBA growing pains

She’s the anti-Megan Rapinoe in that Clark doesn’t make it about herself but her team.

Indiana Fever guard Caitlin Clark passes the ball from under the basket while being defended by two Seattle Storm players. (Doug McSchooler / AP Photo)

The Indiana Fever’s rookie phenom Caitlin Clark has been the most exciting thing to happen to the WNBA in a long time.

Understandably, she’s been given much credit for bringing more eyes to the sport and the league, with the hope being that interest in the WNBA will soon be on a level that matches that of their male counterparts in the NBA.


But she’s experienced some criticism along the way, too, with some of it being catty and uncalled for. It has had the net effect of turning some fans off from the league.

Some of it, unfortunately, has been racially tinged.

For instance, “The View” co-host Sunny Hostin declared during a recent episode, “I do think that she is more relatable to more people because she’s white, because she’s attractive, and unfortunately, there still is that stigma against the LGBTQ+ community.”

“I do think that there is a thing called pretty privilege. There is a thing called white privilege. There is a thing called tall privilege, and we have to acknowledge that, and so part of it is about race,” Hostin also said.

There have also been growing pains.

Clark has been a frequent target of some of the other WNBA players, being aggressively fouled on nonball plays to the extent she’s fallen to the court in some of them. In postgame pressers, she usually shrugs it off, saying she mentally prepares herself for it now because she knows it is coming.

Though Clark has given it her all, averaging 17 points, five rebounds and six assists per game, her team, the Fever, hasn’t had such a great start to their season with a 3-9 record as of this writing.

And even as she’s had a great start to her season stats-wise, Clark, who became the NCAA’s all-time leading scorer in all of college basketball in March while still with the Iowa Hawkeyes, found out over the weekend that she didn’t make the cut for the women’s Olympics basketball team.

She handled it with class, telling reporters, “I know it could have gone either way — me being on the team, me not being on the team. So I’m excited for them, I’ll be rooting them on to win gold.”

To her credit, though she is THE story in the WNBA right now, Clark is branding herself as more of a team player than a star player, seeming to take all the attention — positive or negative — thrown in her direction in stride as she tries to make her way and find her footing in the big leagues.

In essence, from what little I know of Clark, she’s the anti-Megan Rapinoe in that Clark doesn’t make it about herself but her team. That is definitely a plus as far as I’m concerned, especially in a sport where the egos are large and the drama-queening runs sky-high.

Clark’s defenders have been as vocal as her critics, with former NBA star-turned-commentator Charles Barkley perhaps summing it up the best.

“Y’all petty, girls! I expect men to be petty because we’re the most insecure group in the world,” Barkley proclaimed during a recent “Inside the NBA” TV broadcast.

“Y’all should be thanking that girl for getting y’all a– private charters, all the money and visibility she’s bringing to the WNBA. Don’t be petty like dudes!” he went on to say, adding, “Caitlin Clark, thank you for bringing all that money and shine to the WNBA.”

Well said, Chuck. Well said.

North Carolina native Stacey Matthews has also written under the pseudonym Sister Toldjah and is a media analyst and regular contributor to RedState and Legal Insurrection.