IndyStar Sports Columnist Apologizes to Caitlin Clark for Odd ‘Heart Gesture’ Exchange: ‘I’m Part of the Problem’

Caitlin Clark’s new life as a member of the Indiana Fever started out on fire – more than 10,000 people showed up to watch the Indianapolis-based team pick the Iowa Hawkeyes superstar guard No. 1 overall in the WNBA draft. Then a local sports columnist immediately went and made it weird.

Gregg Doyel, among the nation’s most decorated sportswriters and himself a local celebrity by any measure, penned an apology Wednesday after his very first public interaction with the league’s most vaunted incoming rookie went out-of-bounds.

“I’m devastated to realize I’m part of the problem,” Doyel wrote in the Star. “I screwed up.”

During Wednesday’s post-selection press conference at the Gainbridge Fieldhouse, Doyel opened the exchange by making the “heart” gesture – think Taylor Swift – which Clark, the all-time leading scorer in NCAA basketball history, was known to make at the end of Hawkeyes games.

“Hi Caitlyn, uh Gregg Doyel, Indystar … Real quick, let me do this,” he said as Clark looked on intently.

“You like that?” she responded.

“I like that you’re here,” he replied. “I like that you’re here.”

“I do that at my family after every game,” she said.

“Well, start doing it to me and we’ll get along just fine,” Doyel replied.

The backlash arrived at the speed of the internet.

Doyel, a former national writer for CBS Sports and four-time honoree as the country’s top sports columnist by the Associated Press, said in his apology that this wasn’t the first time his heart-on-his-sleeve style got him in trouble.

“What happened was the most me thing ever, in one way,” he wrote. “I’m sort of known locally, sigh, for having awkward conversations with people before asking brashly conversational questions. I’ve done this for years with Colts coaches Chuck Pagano, Frank Reich and Shane Steichen. I’ve done it with Purdue players Carsen Edwards and Zach Edey. I did it with IU’s Romeo Langford, talking to them as people, not athletes. … Notice something about all those names? They’re all men.”

Doyel said he needs to “be more aware about how I talk to people – not just athletes.”

“On the one hand, yes absolutely, male and female athletes should be treated the same. I’m talking about coverage, respect, compensation, terminology, you name it. Stories have been written about idiots who say or act otherwise. And then, along comes a story about another insensitive man, which goes viral on social media, and I decided to write about that idiot. … Me.”

Doyel said he went through “stages of grief” after the viral exchange, first denying that he did anything wrong, then getting angry at the suggestion that he had.

“This is where I was, convinced I was harmless and right, when a woman I deeply respect told me, ‘But Caitlin Clark is a young woman, and you don’t talk to a young woman the same as you would a young man.’

“And my heart dropped. Because now I saw it: After years of being so sure I was on the right side of these arguments, I was now on the wrong side, and for the oldest reason known to man and woman: Ignorance.”

Doyel explained that the gesture came in his “haste to be clever,” and “didn’t see the line.”

“I now realize what I said and how I said it was wrong, wrong, wrong. I mean it was just wrong. … Caitlin Clark, I’m so sorry.”

Watch the entire exchange (through your own fingers) in the video clip above.

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