Caitlin Clark pressured by media to take up arms in ‘culture wars,’ criticized for focusing on basketball

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Caitlin Clark was grilled twice in the span of a few hours on Thursday about being the face of the so-called “culture wars” that are supposedly happening around her.

The Indiana Fever rookie has clearly been the most talked about WNBA player in quite a while. While scrutiny from the media and other players may seem like she had committed a crime, Clark has kept her nose out of the debate from television pundits and social media vitriol alike.

Even before the regular season started, comments about race being a part of the reason why she was popular reared its head. Clark was then on the receiving end of a hard foul from Chicago Sky guard Chennedy Carter, which spared questions about why a foul was leading debate shows.

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Caitlin Clark signs autographs

Indiana Fever guard Caitlin Clark signs autographs for fans before the start of WNBA basketball game against the New York Liberty on Saturday, May 18, 2024 in New York. (AP Photo/Noah K. Murray, File)

Then, Clark’s snub from the Olympic roster kick-started another conversation which led to scrutiny toward Connecticut Sun guard DiJonai Carrington for appearing to mock Clark for allegedly embellishing a foul call.

Clark faced questions on two separate occasions before she was introduced in the starting lineup at the Gainbridge Fieldhouse, where she got set to go up against the Atlanta Dream.

“It seems no matter what you do or what is done to you it becomes a topic nationally. And a lot of times it becomes divisive. I wonder how your standpoint how you feel about people using your name in whatever culture wars or whatever wars their fighting. I wonder how you feel about that,” The Athletic’s Jim Trotter said to Clark.

“It’s not something I can control so I don’t put too much thought and time into thinking about things like that,” Clark said. “And, to be honest, I don’t see a lot of it. Like I’ve said, basketball is my job. Everything on the outside, I can’t control that, so I’m not going to spend time thinking about that. People can talk about what they want to talk about. Create conversations about whatever it is. I think for myself, I’m just here to play basketball. I’m here to have fun. Trying to help our team win. We’ve won three games and feel like we’ve been in a position to win more than that. My focus is on helping us do that. I don’t pay much mind to all of that.”

Trotter then asked, “How much do you think that has impacted your ability to cultivate relationships within the league?”

“You know, I think everybody in the league understands, one, we’re excited about all this attention we’re getting, and I think we’re appreciative of it. I think the league has been great for a really long time. But my focus is on my teammates. They’ve been amazing. I don’t think it’s impacted me making relationships on my team. I’m not obviously talking to other people on other teams on a daily basis. I have so much to focus on here and getting my teammates to trust me and do all that is my main focus. Same with our coaching staff, same with this organization.”

Caitlin Clark dribbles the ball

Caitlin Clark, #22 of the Indiana Fever, dribbles the ball during the game against the Atlanta Dream on June 13, 2024 at Gainbridge Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. (Ron Hoskins/NBAE via Getty Images)

WNBA COMMISH EMBRACING WAVE OF POPULARITY WITH RISE OF CAITLIN CLARK

Trotter took another chance.

“I understand you’re focused, but I’m just curious though, are you bothered that folks would attempt to weaponize your name in whatever fight they’re fighting?” Trotter asked.

“No,” Clark said in the middle of Trotter’s question. “I don’t see it. That’s not where my focus is. My focus is here and on basketball. That’s where it needs to be. That’s where it has been, and I’m just trying to get better on a daily basis.”

Clark’s answer drew a stern reaction from Carrington, who responded but did not mention Clark by name.

“Dawg. How one can not be bothered by their name being used to justify racism, bigotry, misogyny, xenophobia, homophobia & the intersectionalities of them all is nuts,” Carrington wrote on X. “We all see the s—. We all have a platform. We all have a voice & they all hold weight. Silence is a luxury.”

After Carrington’s comment, The Athletic’s James Boyd took another opportunity to ask Clark a question.

Caitlin Clark and Alisha Gray

Caitlin Clark, #22 of the Indiana Fever, shakes hands with Allisha Gray, #15 of the Atlanta Dream, before the game on June 13, 2024 at Gainbridge Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. (Ron Hoskins/NBAE via Getty Images)

“Caitlin, I know you mentioned that, you want to focus straight on basketball, definitely respect that. But asking you directly, when people use your name for racism, misogyny, whatever, what is your response to that directory?”

“I think it’s disappointing,” Clark responded once more. “Everybody in our world deserves the same amount of respect. The women in 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.

“This league is the league I grew up admiring and wanting to be a part of. Some of the women in this league were some of my biggest idols and role models growing up and helped me want to achieve this moment right here that I get to play in every single night. Just treating every single woman in this league with the same amount of respect is just a basic human thing that everyone should do. Just be a kind person and treat them how you would want to be treated. I think it’s very simple.”

Clark did not exactly go out and have the game of her life either.

Caitlin Clark and Kelsey Mitchell

Indiana Fever guard Caitlin Clark, #22, and Indiana Fever guard Kelsey Mitchell, #0, interact during a WNBA Commissioner’s Cup game between the Indiana Fever and the Connecticut Sun on June 10, 2024 at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut. (Erica Denhoff/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

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She had seven points, six assists and seven turnovers as the Fever held on to beat the Dream.

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