Caitlin Clark Is Down and the WNBA Can’t Help Her Get Up

For Clark's own good her teammates, not the league, need to get her back

Caitlin Clark of the Indiana Fever.
Caitlin Clark of the Fever was terrible against the New York Liberty.
Catalina Fragoso/NBAE via Getty

Approximately 24 hours after being sent to the deck by a blindside shot from Chennedy Carter before an inbound pass during Indiana’s 71-70 win over Chicago on Saturday on a play that was upgraded to a flagrant foul upon review, trash-talking No. 1 overall pick Caitlin Clark couldn’t throw it in the ocean as the Indiana Fever were routed 104-68 in front of 17,401 fans at Barclays Center on Sunday night by the New York Liberty.

Clark, who is leading the WNBA in turnovers per game (5.4) by a large margin and is struggling with her overall shooting (35.7% from the field and 29.7% from 3-point range) as well thus far in the WNBA, made a single shot from distance against the Liberty to finish with three points on 1-of-10 shooting. It was the lowest point total and field goal rate (10%) in a game during both her time in the WNBA (11 games) and college (139 games at Iowa), per ESPN.

Given that the 22-year-old’s bottoming out in Brooklyn came directly on the heels of her being tossed to the ground in Indiana, it’s fair to wonder if Carter, who played overseas in Turkey in 2023 and is making an average annual salary of $64,154 after inking a one-year deal with Chicago prior to this season, has discovered Clark’s kryptonite.

Carter wouldn’t address her hard foul on Clark after committing it on Saturday, but she did take to social media on Sunday to hammer the Fever phenom and question her abilities. “I’m the type to talk the talk and walk the walk ! you better ask someone for them tapes,” Carter wrote on Threads. “That’s that on that cause beside three point shooting what does she bring to the table man?”

As a rookie, Clark hasn’t even been able to bring that to the table due to her shooting woes, but she is chipping in for the Fever in other ways with 6.4 assists, 5.1 rebounds and a steal and a block per game. She’s also clearly drawing more eyeballs to the WNBA, which seems to be rubbing some older players like Carter the wrong way. With that unwanted rub now leading to shoulder shoves, some are calling for the WNBA to step in to protect their prized asset, who signed a $28 million Nike contract before even stepping on the court as a pro.

“The league should do itself a favor and get tougher on any and all flagrant incidents and start cracking down on any would-be, self-appointed vigilantes,” according to The New York Post. “The WNBA upgraded Carter’s foul from a common foul to a Flagrant 1 on Sunday morning. Better late than never. A hard foul is one thing. A flagrant foul is another. It is one thing to be tested, and another to be targeted. Clark doesn’t ask for special treatment, nor is she entitled to it. The last thing anyone in the WNBA should want is injuring the golden goose that lays the golden egg.” 

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An injury to Clark would obviously be bad for business, but the WNBA can’t change its rules or the manner in which it adjudicates them on the Fever star’s behalf and even a hint of doing so will make things worse, not better, for her. If Clark gets hit, she, or one of her teammates, needs to hit back. That’s what happens in the NBA and the WNBA should follow that model if it wants to be viewed in the same light. Clark is special, but she can’t get special treatment.

To Clark’s credit, she doesn’t seem to be asking for any on Saturday after being tossed to the ground. “I grew up playing basketball with the boys. It’s always been physical and feisty and you have to find a way to hold your own,” she said.

All signs indicate that Clark will — and the WNBA needs to let her. On her own.

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