Angel Reese on Caitlin Clark: Sure, I'll Play the Villain

WNBA rivals back in the spotlight after a hard foul
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 4, 2024 11:55 AM CDT
Caitlin Clark Controversy: Lots of 'Smoke' and 'Love'
Indiana Fever guard Caitlin Clark (22) plays against the Los Angeles Sparks in the first half of a WNBA basketball game in Indianapolis, Tuesday, May 28, 2024.   (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

Caitlin Clark was a big topic of conversation even before she entered the WNBA, of course, but the recent hard foul she took from an opposing player seems to have put things into overdrive. And much of the conversation centers on race:

  • Analyst apologizes: ESPN's Pat McAfee tweeted an apology for calling Clark a "white b----" during a segment in which, despite that term, he was defending her. "I have way too much respect for her and women to put that into the universe." In the original segment, McAfee weighed in on media coverage of Clark: "I would like the media people that continue to say, 'This rookie class, this rookie class, this rookie class.' Nah, just call it for what it is: There's one white b—- for the Indiana team who is a superstar."
  • Necessary: At the Athletic, Andrew Marchand writes that McAfee was right to apologize. Yes, Clark got roughed up by a flagrant foul by Chicago's Chennedy Carter, and it appeared that Carter used the very same word. "But talking on the court, WNBAer to WNBAer, is different than shooting your mouth off on the airwaves. It is not the same," writes Marchand.

  • 'Smoke' and 'love': After initially declining to answer questions about knocking Clark to the floor, Carter told reporters on Monday that she had no regrets for what Chicago head coach Teresa Weatherspoon referred to as a "heat of the moment" incident, per Yahoo Sports. "We've been able to take a lot of hits in the last 24, 48 hours. I'm over here smiling, I'm not complaining. ... At the end of the day, it's all love outside of basketball. When we're in those four lines, it's smoke. After, it's all love."
  • Happy villain: As for Angel Reese, Clark's former college rival who was spotted cheering teammate Kennedy's foul on Clark, she has no regrets, either. "Yeah, negative things have probably been said about me," she said. "But honestly, I'll take that, because look at where women's basketball is. … I'll take that role. I'll take the bad guy role and I'll continue to take that on."
  • Race factor: In comments made to the Los Angeles Times last month, Jemele Hill of the Atlantic said of Clark that "we would all be very naive if we didn't say race and her sexuality played a role in her popularity." (Clark is heterosexual in a league with many LGBTQ players.) As for the backlash Clark has received, Hill added: "It's not jealousy. It's just the fact that in our society, Black women are often erased from the picture." On The View, Sunny Hostin similarly said, per Fox News: "I do think that there is a thing called pretty privilege. There is a thing called white privilege. ... And so part of it is about race, because if you think about the Brittney Griners of the world, why did she have to go to play in Russia? Because they wouldn't pay her" here in the US.
  • A counter: "For anyone who values the WNBA, it is self-sabotaging to treat Clark as a white interloper," writes Rich Lowry at the National Review. "She's an incredible draw and a courteous emissary for the game." Time will tell whether she ends up as a league great, "but she's certainly not the villain," he writes.
(More Caitlin Clark stories.)

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