Elle Duncan on Caitlin Clark Credit: The Elle Duncan Show

As Caitlin Clark begins her WNBA career, there seem to be more big-idea debates than analysis of her basketball performance with the Indiana Fever, punctuated recently by LeBron James and Charles Barkley weighing in on the lack of respect Clark is receiving from her fellow WNBA athletes.

The only problem seems to be that Clark may not have actually received as much public hate from within the WNBA as James or Barkley believes.

In the latest episode of ESPN’s The Elle Duncan Show, Duncan implored media figures to end this contrived story of WNBA infighting.

“This is only women that get this s***. I’m tired of it,” the SportsCenter host said. “Who are these girls that are hating on Caitlin Clark? Are you just combing through Twitter? Because that is a cesspool.”

Duncan emphasized that Diana Taurasi recently clarified her comments about a “wakeup call” coming in the pros, while few other competitors have done anything but praise Clark throughout her NCAA and young WNBA career.

“Stop acting like because you some randos on Twitter knocking Caitlin Clark that all girls are against her,” Duncan added. “What else are these women supposed to do? Fawn over her? Fangirl over her? Bend the f***ing knee? What do you want from them? They’re not being petty. They’re not trashing her. Where? When? What?”

Barkley demanded Clark’s “haters” stop being petty in a recent edition of Inside the NBA, while James expressed his hope that WNBA athletes would find a greater appreciation for Clark being a rising tide for the league.

Duncan also reminded her audience that manufacturing this type of beef does a disservice to the No. 1 overall pick as well. Clark does not need James or Barkley to stand up for her or come to her defense against her fellow pros.

“Stop making it out to be as if she’s some ponytail princess,” Duncan said. “Caitlin Clark became the greatest college basketball player of all time, men or women, not because people fawned over her and coddled her … because she got her a** in the gym and worked hard. … We are not, every single game, going to revisit and retreated this same tired-a** rhetoric that all these girls are hating on her and they need to be thankful. They have been. They’ve said it time and time and time again.”

Duncan then contrasted how NBA or NFL players would be received if they did what people like James and Barkley are demanding the women of the WNBA do with Clark. If all the opposing players in the NFL treated Caleb Williams like the second coming, they would be ripped to shreds.

“What are you looking for? They’re still competitors, bruh,” Duncan noted. “It is embarrassing, because if this was the men and you just watched a bunch of other dudes fawn over someone all the time … if that was men, you’d call them weak. That would be a soft move.”

Duncan closed by commenting that many of the voices stirring the pot around a perceived dispute between Clark and the vets in the WNBA are outsiders to the league. It would be hard for them to speak to the tenor of WNBA stars’ comments and feelings toward Clark considering they do not follow or cover the league.

While Duncan is surely right to note that media narratives around accomplished women often work to pit them against one another and gin up imagined controversy (see: every woman in hip-hop, ever), it’s also fair to note that A’ja Wilson recently added fuel to the fire when she claimed Clark’s popularity was largely a result of her race. Wilson, who also said she’s not paying attention to the comments from James or Barkley, may not be wrong, but the comment brought more negativity to Clark’s WNBA debut.

Because Clark generated historic attention in college and is the rare white basketball star, these discussions are unlikely to go away. However, Duncan’s plea to stick to the actual facts is more than reasonable.

Duncan is the anchor for ESPN’s women’s basketball College GameDay desk and hosted the record-breaking WNBA Draft last month.

[The Elle Duncan Show via ESPN on YouTube]

About Brendon Kleen

Brendon is a Media Commentary staff writer at Awful Announcing. He has also covered basketball and sports business at Front Office Sports, SB Nation, Uproxx and more.