WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert stance clear on Caitlin Clark ‘target’ claim

As the debate over the treatment of Indiana Fever rookie Caitlin Clark by opposition WNBA stars continues, league commissioner Cathy Engelbert has seemingly given her stance on the issue

WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert hit back at claims that Indiana Fever rookie Caitlin Clark is being “targeted” by opponents as she asserted that the league is never “about one player.”

The NCAA legend was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2024 draft and joined the Fever having broken a plethora of longstanding records during her collegiate days. Her early months with Indiana have been eventful so far, with accusations of rough treatment having been leveled by her fans toward rival stars.

As things stand, Clark has scored an average of 16.2 points, alongside 6.6 assists and 5.5 rebounds per game in the infancy of her spell with Indiana. Her star remains undiminished following her transition to the WNBA too – with the clashes with Angel Reese and the Chicago Sky drawing the highest viewership numbers for the league in over 20 years.

In her first two contests against the Sky this year, the former Iowa icon was on the receiving end of controversial fouls – first from Chicago’s Chennedy Carter, and subsequently via Reese in the second encounter. As a result of these incidents, debate ensued over whether Clark was potentially being earmarked as a target by opposition stars.

Addressing these suggestions, WNBA commissioner Engelbert gave her honest take on the “physical” nature of games in the league as she appeared to deny that the youngster is being singled out. Appearing on the “The TODAY Show,” she insisted: “The fans we’ve had for a long time know how we have the best, biggest, most physical, best players in the world.

“What people don’t realize [is] in college, there’s over 200 NCAA Division I women’s college programs. There’s 12 WNBA teams; so you take the talent, and it’s centralized with the best, the biggest, most physical, and, really, the best players in the world. So, I think there’s always an adjustment for all rookies.”

The clashes between Angel Reese of the Chicago Sky and Caitlin Clark of the Indiana Fever have fascinated viewers this season
The clashes between Angel Reese of the Chicago Sky and Caitlin Clark of the Indiana Fever have fascinated viewers this season 
Image:
Getty Images)

She added: “I think our rookie class this year is doing outstanding, including Caitlin. She was the rookie of the month for May. There is a spotlight. No league is ever about one player. You see players, there’s injuries, other things that happen. We’re marketing around all of our players, but I think Caitlin’s lifting everybody.”

Speaking previously about the rivalry she enjoys with Clark, the aforementioned Reese appeared to dismiss any talk of tensions between the pair as she laughed off the scrutiny. Demonstrating her lack of interest in the noise surrounding the relationship with her peer, she simply said: “It’s just competition.”

Meanwhile, former WNBA legend Sheryl Swoopes also seemed to distance herself from the discourse over the treatment of Clark as she said to Gil’s Arena: “It’s the clip they wanna post because they’re gonna get all these likes and reposts… but that’s a basketball play.

“She hit her in the head so of course, it should be upgraded to a flagrant 1. Ref’s looked at it, they upgraded it. [But] can we keep playing basketball? My thing is, every time Caitlin gets fouled, we can’t make it seem like she was assaulted. Fouling is a part of basketball.”

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