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“I’m part of the problem”: Male reporter apologizes to WNBA’s Caitlin Clark after awkward exchange

“I’m part of the problem”: Male reporter apologizes to WNBA’s Caitlin Clark after awkward exchange
“I’m part of the problem”: Male reporter apologizes to WNBA’s Caitlin Clark after awkward exchange

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Newly minted No. 1 WNBA draft pick Caitlin Clark is on top of the world right now with a surprise appearance on “Saturday Night Live,” lucrative new sponsorship deals and drawing the nation’s eyes to women’s basketball.

On April 15, the former University of Iowa point guard and current NCAA’s all-time top scorer was drafted to The Indiana Fever. At a press conference to introduce the new member of the Fever to the team and sports world on Wednesday, the star athlete was met with a room full of press, including columnist Gregg Doyel of The Indianapolis Star. The interaction has caught steam online for its awkwardness but most importantly, it has received criticism from sports journalists for unprofessionalism directed towards female athletes. 

As a young, female athlete with a growing fanbase in a male-dominated sport, there are bound to be awkward interactions with the press, especially male reporters. High-profile athletes like Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka are examples of women in sports who have faced this type of uncomfortable interaction with the press.

When it was Doyel’s turn to pose a question to Clark, he first made a heart gesture with his hands. Clark’s fans know the gesture because she flashes it to her family at every one of her games. The heart gesture – often used by music stans and Asian media stars and their fans – is now synonymous with Clark and has even been featured in a State Farm commercial she was in. However, when Doyle made the gesture, Clark said, “You like that?”

Doyle responded, “I like that you’re here.”

Clark clarified why she does the gesture, telling him, “Yeah, I do that at my family after every game.”

Then Doyle said, “Start doing it to me, and we’ll get along just fine.”

A clip of the short interaction has amassed 41.6 million views on X, leading to online criticism from journalists like Dana O’Neil at the Athletic, posting, “Sometimes life isn’t hard. If, for example, as a professional, ethical, impartial reporter it would not occur to you make a heart at, say, Victor Wembanyama, don’t make one at Caitlin Clark.”

Another sports journalist, Shireen Ahmed who works for CBC Sports said, “Almost every one of my women colleagues & students in sport media and sports journalism are sharing that clip of Gregg Doyel and Caitlin Clark with disgust. We are rightly furious and fed up. His creds should be revoked and offered to an unentitled journalist who respects women.”

Howard Megdal, an independent sports journalist also said, “I am angered and sickened by this. It is incumbent upon reporters to come to press conferences with knowledge and respect. And players cannot, and should not, be treated this way. This is a problem well beyond this specific dynamic. So many of us work every second to build trust.”

After the incident created uproar among fans and sports journalists, Doyle took to X on Wednesday evening to address his actions.

“Today in my uniquely oafish way, while welcoming @CaitlinClark22 to Indy, I formed my hands into her signature [heart]. My comment afterward was clumsy and awkward. I sincerely apologize. Please know my heart (literally and figuratively) was well-intentioned. I will do better,” he said.

Late in the evening, the columnist wrote a piece at the Indy Star expressing guilt and remorse. He opened the column, “I’m devastated to realize I’m part of the problem. I screwed up Wednesday during my first interaction with No. 1 overall draft pick Caitlin Clark of the Indiana Fever.”

He continued to mention he’s known locally for “awkward conversations with people”  before “asking brashly conversational questions.” Doyle said he has done this with plenty of male athletes — not female athletes. He added, “Male and female athletes should be treated the same,” listing gendered issues in women’s sports like fair and equal coverage, respect, compensation and terminology.

Doyle shared that stories are usually written about viral insensitive men, “I decided to write about that idiot. Me.” 

Further into the column, Doyle explained that he did not understand where he took a misstep in the interaction until “a woman I deeply respect told me, ‘But Caitlin Clark is a young woman, and you don’t talk to a young woman the same as you would a young man.’”

Nonetheless, Doyle noted he felt like he offended Clark and her family. He continued, “After going through denial, and then anger – I’m on the wrong side of this? Me??? – I now realize what I said and how I said it was wrong, wrong, wrong. I mean it was just wrong. Caitlin Clark, I’m so sorry.”

As of Thursday, Clark has not responded to the apology. The rising WNBA star has been at the center of multiple conversations around WNBA athlete salaries as President Joe Biden has stated, “Women are not paid their fair share.” Reportedly, Clark is also on the verge of accepting a lucrative, eight-figure endorsement deal with Nike.

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