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May 29, 2024

Indianapolis columnist apologizes to Caitlin Clark over ‘awkward’ heart gesture

Indianapolis columnist apologizes to Caitlin Clark over ‘awkward’ heart gesture

An Indianapolis sports columnist has apologized for flashing a heart symbol with his hands, as well as for his subsequent comments, to new Indiana Fever player Caitlin Clark in what soon became an “awkward” interaction.

Indianapolis Star columnist Gregg Doyel made the heart symbol while he was speaking to Clark at her introductory news conference with the WNBA team, to which she responded, “You like that?” Doyel replied, “I like that you’re here.”

Clark, who broke the NCAA scoring record for both women and men as an Iowa Hawkeye and was the No. 1 pick in Monday’s WNBA draft, said, “I do that at my family after every game, so it’s pretty cool.”

“OK, well, start doing it to me and we’ll get along just fine,” Doyel replied, before he asked a question about Clark’s decision to turn pro and enter the draft.

Doyel apologized in a column published online Wednesday night.

“I’m devastated to realize I’m part of the problem,” he wrote.

Doyel said he is known for having awkward conversations with people before asking “brashly conversational questions.” He’d done so for years with Indianapolis Colts coaches, as well as with Purdue University and Indiana University players, he wrote. 

He called himself “another insensitive man” and said he offended Clark and her family while trying to be “clever” and “welcoming.” 

“After going through denial, and then anger — I’m on the wrong side of this? Me??? — I now realize what I said and how I said it was wrong, wrong, wrong. I mean it was just wrong,” Doyel wrote. “Caitlin Clark, I’m so sorry.”

Clark and her representatives could not immediately be reached for comment late Wednesday.

Clark, 22, broke the women’s NCAA all-time scoring record in February and then broke the men’s record a month later. She ended with 3,951 career points.

With Clark playing, the women’s NCAA championship game between the Hawkeyes and the South Carolina Gamecocks drew more viewers than the men’s championship game for the first time.

Iowa lost to South Carolina for the title, but Gamecocks coach Dawn Staley singled out Clark for lifting up women’s basketball.

Clark has since made multiple high-profile media appearances, including on NBC’s “TODAY” and “Saturday Night Live.” In another sign of fans’ excitement, her Indiana Fever jersey became the top-selling jersey ever for a draft pick.

Phil Helsel

Phil Helsel is a reporter for NBC News.

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