“They Should Just Let The Girl Play Basketball”: NFL Star George Kittle On Caitlin Clark’s Rookie Hazing and WNBA Controversy

Caitlin Clark has had more than a few celebrities and athletes supporting her and her journey. Many have defended her, praised her, anointed her and some have criticized what they perceive as favoritism. 

Her battles with opposing players have been covered like a World War, and anything surrounding CC catapults into the daily sports conversation. Before ever playing a WNBA game Clark was a household name, and only legends are called by their initials or first name, from MJ to Dr. J to Deion to Bo, dating back to “The Babe.”

The Angel Reese contingent continues to fight to have her recognized (Reese had her first 20-point, 10-rebound game in a loss to the Connecticut Sun on Wednesday night), and she personally fights for her respect and props deserved for helping with this recent women’s hoops explosion that CC gets 99 percent of the credit from.

She has dealt with her own growing pains and challenges from veterans, but few people have spoken out to protect her.

George Kittle Defends Caitlin Clark Against Jealousy

The most recent professional men’s athlete to give his take and support for Clark, is also a former Iowa Hawkeye and also among the best to ever do it at his position. 

San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle recently discussed the controversy surrounding Clark and the WNBA with a USA Today reporter via Zoom. 

He was asked about the line between rookie hazing versus the rest of the league being jealous of Clark. This question always befuddles me, because it’s a lazy go-to. WNBA players have explained over and over again that they are not jealous of Clark. Some have openly thanked her for her contributions to the sport off the court. 

There’s still this narrative that persists that opposing players are going harder at Clark than other players, which is unfounded, but that’s become a thing. Is she purposely being hazed and intimidated?

“No, I really think that Caitlin does such a phenomenal job of handling the spotlight she’s in constantly because it’s like everything that happens in the WNBA somehow gets reverted back to her,” Kittle said.

“It’s not like she’s out there saying put the camera on me. She doesn’t brag all the time. She’s incredibly humble,” Kittle continued.

“She’s handling it the best she can,” he extolled. “There for some reason is such a controversy every time there’s something about Caitlin Clark. It’s great media clicks and stuff; like that. I think they should just let the girl play basketball because she’s fun to watch.”

Caitlin Clark Numbers Are Solid, Not Great: George Kittle Says Let Her Improve

The amazing part about the Clark phenomenon is that most people have no clue how she’s really doing in comparison to other great players in the league. 

Her averages are solid but not remarkable. She’s averaging 16.2 points per game, 4.9 rebounds and six assists per game. She has the ball in her hands a lot. She’s 18th in field goal attempts and 15th overall in scoring. Which is good. 

“I don’t know why people would give her any type of crap,” Kittle said. “Transitioning from college to the WNBA or college to the NFL or NBA, it’s a grind for most people. I think she’s handling it very well. She had 30-point games and 10-point games. I think she will figure it out as she goes. I don’t know if there’s a rookie hazing. I think people just see her and say ‘I’m gonna compete against her because he has the spotlight on her.’”

Her shooting splits aren’t very impressive. The No. 1 overall pick is shooting 37 percent on field goals and 33 percent on threes. She takes the third-most threes per game in the league (8.4), which also helps her scoring average, which looks solid but would be five points higher if she was a more efficient shooter, and Kittle believes that will come over time 

“I think the more she plays the harder she’s gonna get to defend,” Kittles said. “And you will start seeing those 25-to-30-point games consistently, and she will continue to carry it like a champ like she is.”

Clark Still Helping WNBA Historic Ratings Boost

As expected, the WNBA ratings bonanza has cooled down a bit now that the season is underway, and the ups and downs of a pro season are hitting home. However, the Fever reportedly still account for 33 percent of the WNBA’s total ratings, and it’s clear that Clark is still the major draw. 

Her regular season debut against the Connecticut Sun drew an audience of 2.13 million viewers, making the most watched WNBA game in almost 23 years.

Additionally, the Fever-Liberty matchup on ABC averaged a 1.1 rating and 1.71 million viewers, ranking as the second-most-watched WNBA game in 22 years. 

Furthermore, the Fever’s game against the Chicago Sky and wildly popular rookie Angel Reese also drew a booming audience with 1.53 million viewers on ESPN, marking the league’s fourth-largest audience in the last 22 years. 

So, when Caitlin Clark starts playing even better and the Fever start competing with the best of the WNBA, the ratings should continue to soar. 

Just ask George Kittle.

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