June 16, 2024

The sports columnist who had a creepy exchange with basketball star Caitlin Clark has been suspended for two weeks and will not cover any of Clark’s WNBA games in person this season.

Indianapolis Star sports columnist Gregg Doyel is in the midst of serving his two weeks, according to Bob Kravitz, the longtime former IndyStar sports columnist who broke the news on Substack. Kravitz added Doyel “will not attend any Fever games this summer but will continue to write columns off the team by watching TV from his home.”

Lark-Marie Antón — chief communications officer for Gannett, which owns the IndyStar — said in a statement to Poynter that Gannett doesn’t comment on personnel matters or actions, but did add, “Indianapolis Star sports columnist Gregg Doyel will not be covering the Indiana Fever.”

To catch you up, Clark was the first pick in the 2024 WNBA draft — by the Indiana Fever — after a record-setting career at the University of Iowa. Clark, the all-time Division I scoring leader for men and women, became a national sensation, sparking phenomenal TV ratings and leading the Hawkeyes to the national championship game.

After being selected by the Fever, Clark had her first news conference in Indianapolis on April 17. There, Doyel made the heart symbol with his hands while beginning his first question.

Clark said, “You like that?”

Doyel said, “I like that you’re here. I like that you’re here.”

Then Clark responded by talking about the hand sign, saying, “I do that at my family after every game, so.”

Doyel then said, “Start doing it to me and we’ll get along just fine.”

A short time later, Doyel apologized in a tweet. He then wrote a column about the exchange.

Doyel wasn’t suspended right away. In fact, according to the IndyStar website, he wrote at least seven columns after that over an 11-day period. Kravitz said Doyel will return next week. Washington Post sports media columnist Ben Strauss reported the suspension was unpaid.

Kravitz wrote, “Doyel’s most recent column, a Colts-related piece, was published April 29. He has not written a word since then despite the fact the Pacers are in the throes of a second-round playoff series against the New York Knicks. The Star had hoped to keep this under wraps, but it’s hard to hide the fact a lead columnist at a major metro has disappeared just weeks after an uncomfortable and unfortunate give-and-take with Clark at a significant press conference.”

A suspension is not unheard of. But banning a sportswriter from covering a particular team is unusual. I was a sportswriter for more than 30 years, and I cannot think of a time when I heard of that happening.

It may initially be seen as punishment for Doyel — and it certainly is that, being banned from fully covering one of the biggest sports stories in the country, in his own backyard no less. But the greater point here is that Gannett and the IndyStar seem to be doing what they can to make sure Clark isn’t made to feel uncomfortable. And for that, the decision should be commended.

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