Greg Cote defends Gregg Doyel during an episode of 'The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz' Screen grab: ‘The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz’

As Caitlin Clark makes her WNBA regular-season debut in the Indiana Fever’s opener against the Connecticut Sun on Tuesday night, the Indianapolis Star‘s most prominent sports columnist won’t be in attendance.

That’s because the newspaper has barred Gregg Doyel from covering Clark’s games in person following his awkward interaction with the rookie phenom at her introductory press conference last month.

Seemingly as polarizing with colleagues as he is with readers, Doyel’s punishment — which also reportedly included a two-week suspension from the paper — has resulted in a mixed reaction within the industry. But while the Miami Herald‘s Greg Cote agrees that Doyel’s comments were “cringeworthy” and deserving of punishment, the longtime columnist believes the Indy Star went overboard in barring Doyel from covering Fever games.

So much so that Cote claims that if he had been issued a similar punishment, he would consider handing in his resignation.

“What he did was cringeworthy. It was sexist, it was creepy, it was juvenile. He deserved to be suspended for a couple of weeks,” Cote said on The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz, which he co-hosts on Tuesdays. “But I don’t believe what he did was journalistic felony. I believe it was a dumb misdemeanor. But it’s a felonious penalty when you tell the lead columnist in a city welcoming its new big star that he can’t write about her indefinitely. I wouldn’t stand for that. If the Miami Herald tried to tell me that and the roles were reversed, I would use whatever leverage I have to say, ‘That’s not standing with me.’ You need to threaten to quit. You need to make a mess of this if you need to.”

“You think that’s a good idea? Are you crazy?” Le Batard replied. “You would threaten to quit the newspaper?”

“Yes,” Cote responded. “They can’t tell me what I can cover and what I can’t cover because I misspoke at an introductory press conference.”

The show proceeded to go back and forth on the topic for the better part of 40 minutes, with Cote remaining unmoved from his position (which he admitted was easier for him to take as he nears retirement). You can watch the entire segment in the video player below.

It’s worth noting that Doyel isn’t completely banned from covering Clark and the Fever — he just has to do so remotely. And while it would be understandable for a lead columnist to be upset about not being permitted to cover the biggest story in town in person, the reality is that his uncomfortable interaction at the press conference has seemingly compromised his coverage of Clark for the foreseeable future.

That’s not to say that Cote’s stance is wrong; if he or Doyel feel that not being able to cover Clark in person is worth quitting over, who is anyone to say otherwise? Conversely, such assignments aren’t a birthright — even for a lead columnist — and if the powers that be at the Indy Star don’t want Doyel’s presence (further) clouding its coverage of Clark, that certainly seems more than reasonable.

[The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz]

About Ben Axelrod

Ben Axelrod is a veteran of the sports media landscape, having most recently worked for NBC's Cleveland affiliate, WKYC. Prior to his time in Cleveland, he covered Ohio State football and the Big Ten for outlets including Cox Media Group, Bleacher Report, Scout and Rivals.