Jun 2, 2024; Brooklyn, New York, USA; Indiana Fever guard Caitlin Clark (22) looks to drive past New York Liberty guard Courtney Vandersloot (22) in the second quarter at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

ESPN analyst Monica McNutt has been at the helm of defending the WNBA hoops culture after Caitlin Clark‘s fans, alongside many prominent media personalities, have questioned the league’s inability to stop the physical and verbal barrage on the Fever rookie. Additionally, she has also acknowledged that it seems to stem from jealousy among the established WNBA athletes regarding her unbridled fame.

On Shannon Sharpe’s Nightcap pod, while downplaying the notion of the rest of the league conspiring against Clark, McNutt argued that there is a concrete reason for the way she is being treated.

She stated that the players are salty over her reportedly inking an eight-year, $28 million, shoe deal with Nike before even hitting the WNBA hardwood.

The 34-year-old reminded fans how Michael Jordan, LeBron James, and Victor Wembanyama faced similar animosity because they landed massive shoe deals before taking the NBA floor. Thus, there is a precedence for the current behavior towards the current face of the WNBA.

I mean wouldn’t you be jealous with somebody that got a $28 million shoe deal before you step feet in the pros… Jordan as a rookie, LeBron as a rookie, When you look at guys that have gone on to be great, I’m sure they would not say that their rookie years were cakewalks,” Mcnutt told Sharpe.

For McNutt, rookie hazing has been the rites-of-passage for superstars and the Clark situation should be treated as the same. These narratives have taken shape because the WNBA is now a part of the regular programming on the national sports media and Clark has helped bring the league to the limelight.

The Caitlin Clark effect is buzzing

The increased number of WNBA ticket sales and viewership numbers have been adjacent to Clark’s arrival. While she has bolstered the home ticket sales, she has also upped the sales of the away arena as a visiting player. Her massive appeal has led to more people following the WNBA scene.

The increased flow of capital and the potential for generating more money has paved the way for chartered flights to W athletes for the first time in history.

No WNBA athlete has ever enjoyed such fame which has left many WNBA hoopers, who have been grinding it out for years at the pro level, embittered. As McNutt said, LeBron James also had to deal with a ton of uninvited resentment from his peers.

During a Mind the Game pod, LBJ expressed that he could relate to CC’s experience and urged her to keep her “blinders” on so she could focus on her craft. While it is true that Clark has dealt with a ton of unacceptable conduct, the rookie has to be ready to face any challenge in the coming days.