Thursday, June 20, 2024

Caitlin Clark’s Olympics snub: Did women’s basketball blow the layup?

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The “Caitlin Clark Effect.”

For the first time in history, the whole world is talking about women’s basketball. Why? Because Caitlin Clark sent viewership and engagement to new levels while becoming the most prolific scorer — male or female — in college basketball history. And as the No. 1 overall draft pick by the Indiana Fever, she has brought this following with her into the WNBA

Yet, she was left off of the 2024 U.S. Women’s Olympic basketball team. And some people are not happy.

Colin Cowherd voiced his disapproval of the decision on FS1’s “The Herd” on Monday.

“Caitlin Clark, who is not one of the top 12-15 WNBA players, did not make the Olympic team,” Cowhered said. “But Christian Laettner wasn’t one of the top 100 players in the NBA, and he made an Olympic team. Jaylen Brown is not on this (upcoming Men’s) Olympic team, and he’s one of the top 15 players.

So, if it seems that talent is not the only factor that guarantees a spot for players on the Olympic team, what does? According to Cowherd, it’s all about “politics.”

“Olympic basketball teams, men’s and women’s has always been subjective and very political. Isaiah Thomas didn’t make it. Why? Michael Jordan didn’t like him,” Cowherd said. “To me, it feels like an opportunity wasted.”

Cowherd went on to argue that not only would Clark garner viewership for the women’s Olympic team, but she would also make her teammates money in endorsements.

“The WNBA finals had 700,000 viewers. The draft that included Caitlin Clark had three times as many. I would make the argument, like a Tiger Woods or a Connor McGregor in their prime, that she would make other people money beyond herself.” Cowherd said. “The women’s Olympic team does not lose in the Olympics. I think they’ve won seven straight golds, but you wouldn’t know that. Cause you didn’t watch. And [with Clark] you would.”

Cowherd compares Clark’s success to that of Muhammad Ali and Tiger Woods, explaining that Caitlin Clark has been the foundation behind putting women’s basketball on the map. 

“Life gives you few big waves. When they do, grab your surfboard,” he said. 

But according to Cowherd, women’s basketball missed this wave, this opportunity, to continue the upward trajectory of women’s basketball viewership and engagement. 

“She would triple the TV ratings. The NBA would die to have a domestic star nearly as popular as Caitlin Clark. Oh wait, they do. Anthony Edwards. They put him on the team. Anthony Edwards isn’t as good as Jaylen Brown. Yet, they found a spot for him on the team,” Cowherd said.

Putting Caitlin Clark on the team isn’t just about Clark. Cowherd explained that including her would be beneficial for everyone on the team:

“Women’s basketball feels like it’s suffering from spite, or historically low self-esteem, or they want to prove that they know more than you do. Here’s what I know: Caitlin Clark would make all the other women on the Olympic team money. She would make them more famous; she would give them more opportunity; they’d become potentially more household names. It’s an opportunity wasted.”

There was a clear, easy answer to whether or not Clark should be on the team. Women’s basketball answered incorrectly.

“Some stuff is business 101,” Cowherd said. “This is a lay-up. And you blew it.” 

Caitlin Clark snubbed from Olympics

Later on in the episode, Cowherd talked to the Philadelphia 76’s head coach Nick Nurse, who expressed his agreement with Cowherd, yet offered a new perspective on the situation.

“It’s good and bad,” Nurse said. “I almost can’t believe it. Cause I agree with you that the ratings, just everything continues to roll on if she’s on the team. But I’m almost happy for her, too. I think the amount of pressure she’s been under; taking that team from Iowa to the national championships twice, that has never been there at all. At least she doesn’t have to have another ramp up of incredible scrutiny and pressure.”

Nick Nurse on Caitlin Clark being left off Team USA

Nurse wasn’t the only one surprised that Clark was left off the roster. On this past episode of FS1’s “Speak,” Joy Taylor expressed how she found the decision to be incredibly unexpected. Yet, she explained that there are two factors that go into making the decision of who gets put on the team. 

“Who is the best to represent the United States of America as the U.S. women’s Olympic basketball team — that is a separate conversation from what would be the best for growing the sport,” Taylor said. “The attention that the sport is getting is because of Caitlin Clark. She is bringing eyeballs; she is bringing sponsors; she is putting people in the seats; she is causing all the conversation.”

Taylor framed the whole issue as a business decision.

“From a marketing perspective, from a business perspective, you can’t argue the numbers [Clark is generating],” Taylor said. “What is conflicting for me, is when do we talk about the sport, and not just the novelty, and the drama, and the eyeballs, and the ratings, and the religion, and the politics, and the race. From a business perspective, I agree. It wasn’t the right decision.”

Disrespectful to leave Caitlin Clark off Olympics roster?

Paul Pierce agreed with Taylor, explaining on FS1’s “Undisputed,” that having Clark on the team was a business decision, and women’s basketball blew it.

“You claim you want the women’s game to grow, but you keep the most popular girl in women’s basketball off the team,” Pierce said. “Sometimes you have to say ‘hey guys, this is bigger than the game.’ Women’s basketball is at an all-time high because of Caitlin Clark. I think [women’s basketball] is taking a step back. It just doesn’t make sense to me. Women’s basketball dropped the ball on this one.”

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