WNBA fines foul for unprovoked shoulder shot on Caitlin Clark by Chicago’s Chennedy Clark

Cheap shots in sports are a bit like porn: you know it when you see it. It normally occurs as an unexpected, sometimes unprovoked attack, usually from the blind side when the target least expects it.

Chicago guard Chennedy Carter’s hard shoulder check on Indiana’s Catlin Clark during the third quarter of their WNBA game Saturday in Indianapolis was a blatant cheap shot that deserves a suspension and a significant fine to send a good message that such actions will not be tolerated. whether it’s to Mrs. Clark or someone else.

Indiana defeated Chicago 71-70 in a game billed as the first meeting between Ms. Clark and Chicago’s first-round pick, Angel Reese, who has raised the profile of women’s basketball to unprecedented heights. But instead of talking about a tight, competitive match that was broadcast on national television, the post-match focus was on Mrs. Carter’s shoulder check, which was ruled a simple foul rather than considered egregious or technically worthy .

The WNBA on Sunday upgraded Ms. Carter’s violation to a flagrant 1 violation and fined Ms. Reese $1,000 for failing to attend a post-game interview, but that was all. The WNBA also fined Chicago $5,000 for failing to ensure all players adhered to the league’s media policy. The punishment against Mrs. Carter should be more severe.

During a television interview just before the fourth quarter, Ms. Clark said the unexpected blow was “not a basketball play,” but after the game she didn’t add much more, saying, “It is what it is.” It’s a physical game, make the free throw and then execute on offense. It feels like we did that.”

Ms. Clark totaled 11 points, eight rebounds and six assists as Indiana improved to 2-8 on the season before playing the New York Liberty on Sunday night.

After the match, a defiant Mrs. Carter refused to justify her actions. “I don’t answer Caitlin Clark’s questions,” she said.

The incident could be ignored if it was a single isolated act in the heat of battle. But that is not it. The harsh physical contact Ms. Clark has endured since her WNBA debut escalates into unprovoked cheap shots that stink of jealousy and pettiness.

Indiana Fever GM Lin Dunn has seen enough. She took to Twitter to post, “There is a difference between tough defense and unnecessary targeted actions! It has to stop! The league needs to ‘clean up’ the mess! That is NOT who this league is!!”

Ms. Clark, who has earned three technical fouls for complaining to the officials, should receive no more protection than any other player in the WNBA. But she shouldn’t be rolling her head on the ground either. Clearly, some players in the WNBA are jealous of the attention – and endorsements – she is receiving.

It reminds me of 1997, when 21-year-old Tiger Woods became the center of professional golf after winning his first Masters. He wasn’t exactly embraced by many of the established veterans on tour, who were unsettled or even threatened by all the attention the young phenom was receiving.

Fuzzy Zoeller, winner of the 1979 Masters, did not exactly cheer for Mr. Woods for winning the first of what would become five Green Jackets. Referring to a possible menu for the Champions Dinner, Mr. Zoeller told reporters, “Tell him not to serve fried chicken next year. Understood. Or kale or whatever they serve.”

Mr Zoeller apologized and said his comments were not racist. At the very least, they suggest the kind of jealousy and resentment Clark faces in her first year in the WNBA.

Mr. Woods brought unprecedented attention to golf, broadcast media rights soared, tournament fees increased, golf became cool and golfers became athletes. Golf equipment and golf apparel manufacturers all benefited. Golf courses, both private and public, saw an increase in the number of customers playing the game. Everyone made money.

That’s already happening for the WNBA because of Ms. Clark and Ms. Reese. From sellout crowds to private planes to expanding off-the-court opportunities, everyone in the WNBA benefits from the attention and fame Ms. Clark generates.

It is disappointing that when Ms. Carter imposed her unprovoked shoulder check, no one came to Ms. Clark’s defense. Had it been an NBA game, there is little doubt that there would have been some face-to-face, if not fist-to-fist, confrontations on the court.

Ms. Clark offered her thoughts on the physical nature of the WNBA. “I think everyone is physical against me,” she said earlier this week. “They get away with things that other people probably can’t get away with.”

Those who suggest that Mrs. Carter’s shoulder slap was simply a hard foul and the physical nature of pro basketball are making excuses for a blatant foul that has no place in the game, whether the target is the face of women’s basketball or a bench player. Hard basketball is knocked down while driving for a layup, strong contact positioning for a rebound or a hard check on a screen. It’s not a hard shoulder back when you’re not looking and you don’t have the ball.

The WNBA needs to start protecting Ms. Clark and stop her growing image as an association of small, jealous cheap shots.