Parachute Journalism, Gatekeeping, and Incel Behavior Form Anti-WNBA Alliance

By Evan F. Moore

One of my first assignments as a freelance sports reporter early in my career was to cover the 2014 NCAA Men’s Volleyball Championship Game between Stanford and Loyola. 

Outside of casual viewing during the Olympic Games over time and seeing folks play at the beach, I couldn’t tell you much about competitive volleyball. I wasn’t going to tell the editors that, though. 

Beforehand, I studied the sport regarding the key players, key teams, team histories, storylines and what others wrote who were closer to volleyball than I was. 

I knew I was parachuting into a space I wasn’t familiar with. However, the finished product reads as a story from someone who successfully conveyed to the readers what had taken place the day before.

One of the major themes in the discourse surrounding the WNBA is the general unawareness of the game, storylines, teams, players, history, struggle for decent wages, branding and the arrival of several new players who aim to elevate the league, namely Fever guard and newly-minted college basketball legend Caitlin Clark. 

Also, when discussing the WNBA, overwhelming historical empirical evidence shows that the hatred, which includes racism, homophobia, misogyny and misogynoir, stems from a nasty train of thought regarding women, specifically Black women.

Why Black WNBA Players Aren’t Marketed Like Caitlin Clark

Middle America is predisposed to bristle at the idea of the WNBA.

Due to the political work of WNBA players, which predates Colin Kaepernick’s activism, we became aware of 2020 U.S. Democratic Senate candidate Raphael Warnock, who was in an election battle with then-Republican senator and Atlanta Dream co-owner Kelly Loeffler. Loeffler got on the radar of WNBA players after she wrote a letter to WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert protesting the league’s embrace of the Black Lives Matter movement during the 2020 season. 

While it’s difficult to quantify that Warnock was elected due to the endorsement of WNBA players who wore “Vote Warnock” t-shirts ahead of games. However, the WNBA players put him on the radar for voters who hadn’t heard of him previously. Warnock, along with his senate colleague, Jon Ossoff, was instrumental in handing over Democratic control of the U.S. Senate. 

I teach a toxic culture in sports class at DePaul based on the book I coauthored, “Game Misconduct: Hockey’s Toxic Culture and How to Fix It.” Amid the Spring quarter, we’ve talked a lot about the WNBA, men’s and women’s college basketball, Clark and Iowa hoops, player activism, the LSU and South Carolina women’s teams, and what it all means regarding society. 

We have definitely had some pretty good discussions during the quarter. One of them was regarding how the WNBA markets its players.

In one of the papers written by a student who says she doesn’t follow college basketball, she assumed that the Hawkeyes and the aforementioned Clark had won the National Championship based on the number of posts she saw on the Instagram account of a prominent shoe company. After all, winners tend to receive endorsements, widespread media coverage, and guest appearances on TV series. 

I understand why sponsors and marketing/branding reps fawn over Clark. 

Caitlin Clark with Jake from State Farm in a promotion for State Farm in 2023

Caitlin Clark with Jake from State Farm in a promotion for State Farm in 2023 (Credit: State Farm).

They seem to believe that a heterosexual white woman in a league where there are mostly Black women (some of which are members of the LGBT community) will not be positively received by the folks they want to start watching games.

In some cases, exposure and success between the lines aren’t aligned.

Angel Reese, The Chicago Sky Get A ‘Fresh Batch of Hatred’ 

Angel Reese squared off against Caitlin Clark in a recent WNBA game

Angel Reese and the Chicago Sky squared off against Caitlin Clark and the Indiana Fever in a recent WNBA game (Credit: Chicago Sky, Facebook).

Remember when sportswriters and analysts dubbed any match between Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova a “rivalry?” That word was doing a lot of work back then. Also, some folks were pining for Williams and her sister, Venus, to be knocked down a few pegs amid their historic stranglehold on tennis.

Here’s Williams’ head-to-head record with Sharapova: 20-2 (8-1 in Grand Slam matches).

In one of the matches during the 2012 London Olympic Games, it only took Williams, who was well on her way to becoming one of the greatest athletes of all time, an hour to beat the brakes off Sharapova, an alleged “rival.”

Fast-forward to the Sky-Fever game earlier this month, when Clark was hip-checked by veteran Sky guard Chennedy Carter. Clark had been chirping at Carter during the previous possession. 

Some Clark fans masquerading as WNBA fans, and most notably the editorial board of a newspaper that is currently being sued by its own women and Black reporters for race and sex discrimination, called what happened to Clark an “assault.” 

These groups are armed with pitchforks over something that would be a typical “Tuesday” in men’s sports. 

Remember when Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson received pushback from veteran players? After all, many of us watched “The Last Dance” and “Winning Time.”

Remember when Blackhawks center Connor Bedard’s jaw was broken by a veteran player? 

Or when then-Bears quarterback Justin Fields took late hits last season?

Or when Sky forward Angel Reese was recently bodyslammed in a way The Undertaker would approve? 

Earlier last week, possibly in retaliation to the Clark hip check, the Sky were accosted by a man outside of the team hotel.

How about the “Knuckleheads with Quentin Richardson & Darius Miles” podcast, which has a segment where the hosts ask their guests, “Who’s the First Person to Bust Your A-s?”

Growing pains for rookie players like Clark are a thing — always have been.

Unfortunately, these ladies are well aware that the vitriol comes with the territory. They probably operate under the mindset of “when, not if,” especially when they’ve upset some of White America for, in a lot of cases, merely existing. 

The one thing is that Incels— men who are unable to find sexual partners and blame women for their issues—tend to frequent social media channels where they lash out at women, particularly Black women, as the Sky players were subject to racial slurs via social media in the aftermath of Clark’s “assault.”

Some folks will read this column and think I’m saying all of these things because I have a daughter, which means I’m, as they say these days, “capping.” I’m pretty sure they’ve never had to explain racism and sexism to a then 7-year-old like I had to. It’s pretty sad that I had to do that when my kid’s main interests in life are snacks and “Bluey.”

Most of what I’ve learned regarding the discourse has roots in my time as a bouncer at local nightclubs, bars and venues. 

For 12 years, I had a front-row seat regarding how society treats women, especially Black women, once they step outside. If a white woman is dressed nicely, that’s it. When it came to Black women, some assumed they were “working,” as in prostitutes looking to make money. 

That assumption is extremely dismissive and dangerous, as Los Angeles Times columnist Ben Bloch wrote when he described Reese and her LSU teammates as “Dirty Debutantes” during the 2024 NCAA Women’s Tournament. Bloch’s words took me back to then. 

People think less of Black women.

Describing pointed language as a “mistake” is what got us involved in situations like this.

Mistakes are burning toast, mispronouncing someone’s name, getting off an elevator on the wrong floor, or a mailperson delivering mail to the wrong address. Describing a team made up of mostly Black women as less than was a choice, just like the fresh batch of hatred toward WNBA players.

Why Clark Deserved To Get Left Off The Olympic Team

Caitlin Clark addresses the media in her press conference shortly after being selected first overall in the 2024 WNBA Draft

Caitlin Clark addresses the media in her press conference shortly after being selected first overall in the 2024 WNBA Draft (Credit: JazzyJoeyD).

As I started writing this column, news broke over the weekend that Clark, who is three weeks into her WNBA career, was not among the players selected to the U.S. Women’s National Basketball Team roster scheduled to compete in the upcoming 2024 Paris Olympic Games. 

The Clark fans—stans or whatever you’d like to call them—were not thrilled. Many of them couldn’t understand why their hero wasn’t on the team. Here’s where a lot of folks who haven’t followed the WNBA until Clark showed up tell on themselves: the women’s Olympic hoop squad is one of the most dominant forces in team sports. 

The U.S. Women’s National Basketball Team has a 70-3 record in Olympic play and is the odds-on favorite to win a record eight straight gold medals in Paris. For all intents and purposes, they don’t need Clark for her game or her popularity, as her fans and alleged women’s sports advocates have suggested. 

And, perhaps more importantly, the true Olympic snub is Dallas Wings guard Arike Ogunbowale, who is second (26.6) to Las Vegas Aces center A’ja Wilson’s 28 points per game. 

Just like anyone else in numerous vocations, we’re in a results-based business.  

Clark’s fans, elected officials and sportswriters need to cease being a collective resthaven for unserious behavior by treating Clark as if she’s “Princess Buttercup” needing to be saved from the “Woke Mob.”

Caitlin Clark, who seems to have no need for participation trophies, will be alright. 

The rest of you, I’m not entirely sure about that. 


Evan F. Moore writes about Black Women Wrestlers and the excellence they're showing.

Evan F. Moore is a South Side Chicago-based writer. He’s the co-author of the critically-acclaimed book, “Game Misconduct: Hockey’s Toxic Culture and How to Fix It.” His work over time, which consists of the topics at the intersection of sports, race, entertainment and culture, is featured in the Chicago Sun-Times, Rolling Stone, Chicago Magazine, South Side Weekly, Bleacher Report, Chicago Reader, and ESPN’s Andscape (formerly The Undefeated). His writing, which has garnered several awards, was featured in the 2019 edition of The Best American Sports Writing book series. Evan is an adjunct community journalism professor at DePaul University.


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