Angel Reese says Caitlin Clark gets 'special whistle.' It blew after Reese's blow to Clark's head

Angel Reese reacts after fouling Caitlin Clark, who looks on
Chicago Sky rookie Angel Reese, left, reacts after fouling Indiana Fever rookie Caitlin Clark, right, on Sunday in Indianapolis. (Emilee Chinn / Getty Images)

Chicago Sky rookie Angel Reese called it "a basketball play."

Indiana Fever rookie Caitlin Clark said, "It's just part of basketball."

Fever coach Christie Sides said: "The right call was made in that moment."

Former USC and NFL quarterback Matt Leinart posted on X: "Angel Reese should be suspended. Period."

Um, yeah, more on his take in a bit. All of the comments above were regarding a play during Indiana's 91-83 win over Chicago on Sunday in which Reese whacked Clark hard in the head while attempting to block a shot.

Clark was driving to the basket late in the third quarter when Reese came up from behind and took an overhand swing with her right arm. Reese appeared to have her eyes on the ball while making the move, but her arm came down hard on Clark's face. Clark fell to the floor, and her teammates immediately rushed to help her up.

Read more:Caitlin Clark on culture wars: Don't use 'my name to push' racism, misogyny

Reese was initially called for a common foul, but after review the call was changed to a flagrant-1 violation. Asked after the game if she thought it was the appropriate call, Reese said: "It was a basketball play. I can't control the refs. They affected the game obviously a lot tonight.”

A reporter pointed out that it did look like Reese was attempting to block the ball on the play.

“I mean, I'm always going for the ball," said Reese, who finished with 11 points, 13 rebounds and five assists.

During her postgame news conference, Clark was asked what she was thinking after the foul.

“What’s going through my mind? It’s, ‘I’m gonna make these two free throws.’ That’s all I’m thinking about," said Clark, who finished with 23 points, eight rebounds and nine assists. "It's just part of basketball. It is what it is, you know, she’s trying to make a play on the ball and get the block. It happens.”

Read more:Caitlin Clark marketing boom is celebrated but also draws questions of race and equity

When Chicago and Indiana played earlier this month, Sky guard Chennedy Carter knocked Clark to the floor away from the ball, a play that was called as a common foul during the game but upgraded to a flagrant-1 by the league the next day.

Sides told reporters after Sunday's game she appreciated that it didn't take a day for a foul on Clark to be upgraded this time.

"The right call was made in that moment. Flagrant-1, two free throws and the ball," Sides said. "Just make the right call in those moments, and we can move forward. But when we don’t make the right call in those moments, that’s when there’s a problem, and they made the right call tonight.”

Clark and Reese have been linked as rivals ever since Reese and Louisiana State defeated Clark and Iowa in the 2023 NCAA championship game. That rivalry seems to have intensified in the WNBA. Reese has been outspoken against the notion that the WNBA's surge in popularity can be attributed to just one player (a.k.a. Clark).

Read more:Is Caitlin Clark behind WNBA's new popularity? Angel Reese says it's more than 'just one person'

During the first Fever-Sky matchup, Reese appeared to give Clark an elbow while boxing out. Clark fell to the floor on that play but was called out by some fans for exaggerating the impact of the hit. Reese was also seen enthusiastically reacting to Carter's foul on Clark.

After Sunday's game, Reese implied that Clark is still receiving special treatment.

"I think we went up really strong a lot of times and we didn't get a lot of calls," Reese said of herself and her teammates. "And going back and looking at the film, I've seen a lot of calls that weren't made. I guess some people got a special whistle."

One person who didn't see it that way was Leinart. On X, the 2004 Heisman Trophy winner said Reese's hard foul was "not good for the game."

Leinart was largely roasted for his take on social media, as folks lumped the Fox Sports football analyst among the many new WNBA viewers who are primarily Clark fans rather than fans of the sport.

Read more:Granderson: Caitlin Clark can handle the bruises of being a WNBA rookie

Judging from her comments after the game, Clark would have disagreed with Leinart as well.

"I think it's just the emotion and the passion that we play with," Clark said in response to a question about why people seem drawn to her rivalry with Reese. "I think people love to see that. And I think that's maybe not something that was always appreciated in women's sports, and it should be. I think that's what makes it fun.

"We're competitors. That's the way the game should be. It's going to get a little feisty. It's going to get physical. But at the end of the day, both teams are just trying to win."

Sign up for the L.A. Times SoCal high school sports newsletter to get scores, stories and a behind-the-scenes look at what makes prep sports so popular.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

Advertisement