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The media is in meltdown over Caitlin Clark
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The male-dominated sports media apparatus is stumbling over Caitlin Clark.

It is trying to pretend that it hasn’t ignored the WNBA for decades until the superstar rookie came along. But rather than admitting its blind spots, several male commentators are parachuting themselves into a league they barely understand and dismissing anyone who suggests they could do better.
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In the flurry of hot takes that followed Chennedy Carter’s foul against Clark over the weekend, ESPN host Pat McAfee went on his show Monday to argue that Clark — whom he casually called the “White b*tch for the Indiana team” — was singularly responsible for the sudden surge of WNBA popularity and therefore she should be given more respect. He later apologized for using the slur, emphasizing that his broader thesis was that Clark’s star power created a halo around a league that’s been languishing in obscurity.

“I was talking about how I hoped that the WNBA and sports media, ex-WNBA players, would show a little bit more respect to Caitlin Clark for what she has brought to the WNBA,” McAfee said on his show Tuesday.

Of course, it’s not that the league was dormant before Clark got there, it’s that most of the mainstream press weren’t paying attention. The impact of Clark’s arrival is undeniable. But McAfee and the four men flanking him in his Indiana studio are not the best people to lead that conversation on one of the most influential sports networks in America.
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McAfee’s right that the ground is shifting for women’s basketball — it’s one of those pivotal moments when journalists and analysts would normally call up an expert or two and try to absorb some of the complexities of the situation. Instead, the male commentariat have done too much talking and not enough listening.

Clark, a White, straight phenom, has become male sportscasters’ proxy in a league built primarily by Black and LGBTQ athletes whom the mainstream felt fine skimming over in the past. And in covering the league, they’re relying on outdated tropes about how women are supposed to behave. Charles Barkley recently called women “petty” for being rough on Clark.