Caitlin Clark of the Indiana Fever against the New York...

Caitlin Clark of the Indiana Fever against the New York Liberty at Barclays Center on June 2, 2024 in Brooklyn. Credit: Getty Images/Luke Hales

Is this really a nasty, in-your-face snub?

Is leaving Caitlin Clark off Team USA one of the most egregious errors ever made by an Olympic selection committee?

Is Clark clearly a more deserving player than the 12 women who reportedly have made the team ahead of her?

Not even Clark herself seems to think so.

“I’m excited for the girls on the team,” Clark told reporters Sunday, confirming reports that she had been left off the squad. “I know it’s the most competitive team in the world and I know it could have gone either way — me being on the team or me not being on the team. I’m going to be rooting them on to win the gold. I was a kid that grew up watching the Olympics, so it will be fun to watch them.”

Yes, it will. But you can bet more viewers would partake in that fun if Clark were on the team instead of watching it.

Nasty snub? No.

Blown opportunity? Big time.

Clark, with her ability to shoot three-pointers from the logo, won over an army of fans and advertisers this past season at Iowa as she chased and then broke the NCAA scoring record. Clark’s entry into the WNBA this year has coincided with record growth in television ratings, attendance figures and merchandise sales, even though her Indiana Fever has won only three of 13 games.

On Friday, the day she was informed she had not been picked for the team, Clark and the Fever drew a sellout crowd of 20,333 in Washington against the Mystics. That made it the WNBA’s most-attended game in 17 years despite the fact that the two teams had a combined record of 2-19.

Making an Olympic team is not a popularity contest. Still, it wouldn’t exactly have been a stretch to include the 22-year-old Clark on the roster, which hasn’t been officially announced by USA Basketball but has been reported on multiple outlets.

Clark has struggled with turnovers but is the league’s 14th-leading scorer and has scored 30 points twice, most recently on Friday, when she tied a rookie record by hitting seven three-pointers.

The WNBA clearly is profiting from the Caitlin Clark Effect. Why wouldn’t Team USA want to do the same?

That question has been the subject of all kinds of speculation, but the bottom line is the selection committee decided to go with experience and continuity in picking a group that is attempting to win its eighth straight gold medal. Nine players on the team have Olympic experience. There are no players under the age of 26, the age of the Liberty’s Sabrina Ionescu and Las Vegas’ Jackie Young.

It’s hard to quibble with a team that reportedly includes multiple MVPs and All-Stars, including A’ja Wilson, Breanna Stewart, Diana Taurasi, Alyssa Thomas, Brittney Griner, Napheesa Collier, Jewell Loyd, Kelsey Plum, Kahleah Cooper and Chelsea Gray.

Team USA has been loaded with talent in the past without getting the credit and coverage it deserves. The U.S. has won nine of the last 10 Olympic gold medals, but how many casual sports fans watched the team play in 2020? For that matter, how many know whom it beat in the gold-medal game?

The women’s U.S. Olympic team doesn’t get a fraction of the attention that the men’s team does despite being more dominant in recent years. That’s because, unlike the men, most of them are not household names.

That is starting to change in the WNBA as Clark, already a household name, has brought more and more fans into the league.

Yes, there always seems to be some kind of drama swirling around Clark. Can she be the best player in college if she never won a championship? Would she be getting this kind of attention and endorsements if she weren’t heterosexual and white? Are opposing WNBA players fouling her too hard?

There seems to be some sort of controversy about the reasons for her exclusion, with theories running the gamut from there being various prejudices against her on the selection committee to there being some sort of fear that Clark’s millions of fans would be upset if she made the team but didn’t get playing time. (What are they gonna do? Charge the court?)

I hope neither theory is true. Because including Clark would have been good for women’s basketball and good for the WNBA.

Can you imagine a better story line than Taurasi and Clark being teammates? How about her joining forces with Taurasi and Stewart, the former Connecticut players who were criticized for offering harsh critiques of her game during this year’s Final Four.

There still is a chance that Clark will end up in Paris. The names of alternates are not typically released by USA Basketball, but Clark is in the pool. Gray, who is coming back from a foot injury suffered in last year’s WNBA Finals, has yet to play this season. If she’s not able to go, Clark would be a logical replacement for Gray’s ballhandling ability.

That might be the best solution for all. The selection committee has shown allegiance to the women who have built the game, but given one more chance, they also should give a nod to the future.

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