Sports

Sun coach credits ‘superstar influx’ of Caitlin Clark, other rookies for WNBA growth

As the Connecticut Sun got ready to face Caitlin Clark and the Indiana Fever for the third time this season, Sun head coach Stephanie White talked about the growth of the WNBA and how Clark and the other rookies are leading the charge. 

“The influx of talent and star power from the college level – Caitlin Clark, Angel Reese, Cameron Brink – all of these players … have engaged with these fans from a social media perspective,” White said. “That just carries over because there’s a great following for all of these stars that are coming into our league.” 

Stephanie White on the sidelines

Head Coach Stephanie White of the Connecticut Sun looks on during the game against the New York Liberty during the 2024 Commissioner’s Cup on June 8, 2024 at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut. (Chris Marion/NBAE via Getty Images)

Earlier Monday, the WNBA announced that it had seen unprecedented growth over the first month of the season, including “its highest attended opening month in 26 years and its most-watched start of season across each network ever: ABC, ESPN, ESPN2, CBS, ION and NBA TV.” 

The league also immediately promoted its “diverse audience” growth in the second paragraph of the statement. 

“Viewership grew 60% year-over-year among people of color, with the most-represented demographics in that category – Hispanic and Black fans – notching a 96% and 67% year-over-year growth in viewership, respectively,” the statement reads. 

The need to break the audience down by skin color in the second paragraph felt a bit gratuitous, but part of that is probably because it wants to counter the notion that Caitlin Clark is only bringing white views to arenas and to television sets. Why that matters, I’m not entirely sure. 

Caitlin Clark warms up for game vs Sun

Caitlin Clark #22 of the Indiana Fever takes a shot during warmups before a game against the Connecticut Sun at the Mohegan Sun Arena on June 10, 2024 in Uncasville, Connecticut. (Brian Fluharty/Getty Images)

OutKick reached out to the WNBA for comment on the decision to promote racially diverse viewership over some of its other highlights, and we will update if and when we receive a response. 

The league also credited the rookie class for its impact on growth, particularly on social media. 

EX-IOWA COACH LISA BLUDER ‘WOULD LOVE TO HAVE SEEN’ CAITLIN CLARK AT OLYMPICS: ‘THE HARDEST TEAM TO MAKE’

“Throughout Tip-off Week, four of the five moments that drove the most engagement on social channels featured highlights of Indiana Fever’s Caitlin Clark, Chicago Sky’s Angel Reese, Los Angeles Sparks’ Cameron Brink or Las Vegas Aces’ Kate Martin,” the statement read. 

White also noted that the WNBA’s growth started, in her mind, when the country was shutdown because of the restrictions set down by the government during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“I felt the turning point [came when we were] in the bubble,” White said. “You get a fan there for the first time, and then they’re going to keep coming back. So, when there was nothing else to do but watch basketball… fans who might not have watched the WNBA before watched for the first time, and they kept coming back.

Cameron Brink runs down the floor

Cameron Brink #22 of the Los Angeles Sparks reacts after scoring against the Dallas Wings in the second half of a WNBA basketball game at Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles on Friday, June 7, 2024. (Keith Birmingham/MediaNews Group/Pasadena Star-News via Getty Images)

“They brought their daughters and their sons, and they got them involved … and I think it started to take off. And then you have the influx of, of these, these superstars, that are coming into the league and it’s just continuing this, this, this trajectory.” 

There’s no disputing that the league took a massive step forward this season and there’s no question that Caitlin Clark is the driving factor. But White is right, too, that the WNBA has seen growth over the past few years. 

However, the growth this season far exceeds anything the league has seen before. It’s not hard to figure out why. 

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