For Caitlin Clark, Being Passed Over for Olympics Is a Blessing in Disguise

Hype begins for the 2028 Summer Games at Los Angeles.

AP/Doug McSchooler
Guard Caitlin Clark (22) of the Indiana Fever makes a move as a Chicago Sky guard, Lindsay Allen, defends during a WNBA game June 1, 2024, at Indianapolis. AP/Doug McSchooler

The committee that formed the women’s U.S. Olympic basketball team decided Caitlin Clark isn’t good enough to make the squad for the upcoming Summer Games at Paris. Many of Ms. Clark’s fans might be upset, but it’s a decision that ultimately benefits her in the long run.

While the American women’s team is at Paris explaining why the most popular American player isn’t there, Ms. Clark will be getting some much-needed rest and time to build added motivation for what’s left of this WNBA season and all the way to the 2028 Summer Olympics at Los Angeles.

If all goes as expected, Ms. Clark will make her Olympic debut in about 1,493 days, when the world gathers at Los Angeles for the first Olympics at the City of Angels since 1984. “Hopefully, four years from now, I’ll have an opportunity to be on that team,” Ms. Clark told reporters in Connecticut.

The chairwoman for the Women’s National Basketball Team, Jen Rizzotti, formally announced the Paris team on Tuesday, knowing the 12 people selected are being overshadowed by one who wasn’t.

“It’s a little bittersweet sometimes when you’re naming a team because you understand there’s a lot of deserving players that got left off,” Ms. Rizzotti said in a video conference call. “But at the end of the day, the 12 that we selected we feel like will best represent us. And we’re excited to finally get the chance to celebrate them.”

Fair enough. It’s hard to argue against the 12 selected. All have international basketball experience and they are led by 42-year-old Diana Taurasi, who has five Olympic gold medals. The remaining roster consists of A’ja Wilson, Breanna Stewart, Brittney Griner, Alyssa Thomas, Napheesa Collier, Jewell Loyd, Kelsey Plum, Jackie Young, Sabrina Ionescu, Chelsea Gray, and Kahleah Cooper.

The 2028 team will need some new blood, headed by Ms. Clark, who shouldn’t experience the growing pains and constant backlash she’s receiving as a rookie.

Even Ms. Rizzotti sounded demeaning when she explained why Ms. Clark was not chosen for the Paris Summer Games. “As much as you want to make conversation around how we should have considered TV viewership or jersey sales or popularity, that wasn’t the purview of the committee to have those discussions,” Ms. Rizzotti said.

Guess what? Come 2028, the marketing machines will be in full gear, promoting a women’s basketball team playing on its home soil. Imagine the television ratings and endorsement deals for an American squad that includes Ms. Clark, Cameron Brink, Kamilla Cardoso, Rickea Jackson, and Angel Reese, all rookies this year. Imagine the apparel that will be sold. The rookies should adopt the WNBA’s old slogan: “We got next.”

Being left off this year’s Olympic team isn’t going to hurt Ms. Clark. Her popularity won’t take a hit, and maybe the other women in the league will quit making her a target. She’s also earned a rest. After a grueling college season where Ms. Clark broke the Division I scoring records and Iowa went to the Final Four in April, she was drafted on April 15 by the Indiana Fever with the first overall selection and played her first pre-season game on May 3. She has been knocked around since with hard fouls and critical comments.

It will be good for her physical and mental health to get away from the grind for a few days and recharge her energy for the rest of her rookie season.

Bottom line, Ms. Clark must be admired for handling all the attention, showing up at press conferences, answering all the tough questions, and dealing with the pushback from her critics. Ms. Rizzotti talked about ignoring the “outside noise” while compiling the U.S. Olympic team going to Paris. No one deals with more outside noise than Ms. Clark.

She handled being snubbed with her usual class. She told the Indy Star that making the Olympic team is “your dream and your goal,” but added, “I’m grateful to be in the Olympic selection pool. I just got out of college and just to even be in that conversation is huge.”

She called the American roster “really, really talented” and said, “I hope the conversation is about those 12 and them having the opportunity that a lot of people don’t really get in their lifetime. I’ll be cheering for them.”

For now, Ms. Clark is trying to get wins for the Indiana Fever, who are 3-10 and face the Atlanta Dream on Thursday at Indianapolis. She’ll try to bounce back from a tough outing in an 89-72 loss to the Connecticut Sun on Monday, when Ms. Clark scored all of her 10 points in the first half and sat out much of the second with foul trouble. She played a career-low 22 minutes. Through 13 games, she is averaging 16.3 points, 4.9 rebounds, and 6 assists. Ms. Clark has scored at least 20 points in six games and double digits in 10.

The New York Sun

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