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Clark's Olympic Snub; Gamblers' Death Threats; Sir Charles Gets It Right

The geniuses who run USA basketball apparently have decided not to put Caitlin Clark on the U.S. women's Olympic team. 


Clark is the biggest name and the biggest draw in women's basketball on the planet. She's taken women's basketball to heights that were previously unimaginable in terms of attendance and TV viewership. Yet she's not on her own country's Olympic team? 


Ridiculous.


As she has done for the past two years, Clark would bring millions of new eyeballs to her sport. Why keep her out of the Olympics when the game is hitting all-time highs in interest, largely thanks to her?

There's a lot of jealousy towards Clark in the WNBA--not to mention some egregious fouling--but that wouldn't be a problem with the Olympic team vets. WNBA legend and Olympic star Lisa Leslie's take on it was "I don't know how you leave the country without her."


One USA Basketball "source" claimed Clark was left off the team because of fears about how her fans would react if she didn't see enough playing time.


Balderdash.


Clark's a tough, team oriented, first-class person who'd understand that as an Olympic rookie, inexperienced in international play, she would spend most of her time on the bench, as Rebecca Lobo, the biggest name at the time, did 28 years ago on the 1996 team. It wasn't a big deal then, it wouldn't be a big deal now.


Plus, there will be enough US blowouts along the way that would afford her plenty of chances to get on the floor.


Turns out the leaked announcement timing couldn't have been worse. On the same day the story hit, Clark had 30 points and drew 20,000 fans to her game in Washington DC. 


How big of a draw is she? The Washington Mystics moved that game from their normal 4,200-seat venue to the 20,356-seat Capital One arena.


Selling 16,000 extra seats? No problem. The tickets sold out in 30 minutes.


Clark handled the Olympic team news with her typical class. When asked if there was any disappointment about the omission, she responded, “Honestly, no disappointment.”


“I think it just gives you something to work for,” she said. “That’s a dream. Hopefully one day I can be there. I think it’s just a little more motivation. You remember that. Hopefully in four years, when four years comes back around, I can be there.”


Nneka Was Snubbed Too: This isn't the first egregious error by USA basketball with respect to the Olympic team. Former Stanford All-American, No. 1 WNBA pick, Rookie of the Year, league MVP and six-time All-WNBA star Nneka Ogwumike, the head of the league's players union, has never made the team.


Politics? I wonder.


Gambling Hypocrisy: In the latest example of Major League Baseball's hypocritical stance on sports gambling, last Tuesday the league banned San Diego Padres infielder Tucupita Marcano for life for betting on the sport and four other players for one year for the same offense.


What did they expect?


The league has gotten in bed with bookmakers FanDuel, DraftKings, MGM and Caesar's. These days, you can't watch an MLB game without seeing a gambling ad in almost every commercial break. 


I've written before about how hypocritical the major sports leagues and the NCAA are in forming partnerships with gambling entities and running ads that encourage people to bet, not just on game scores, but on each pitch, play, possession or individual's stats. 


But there's something much more pernicious going on.


Death Threats: USA Today ran a shocking story yesterday about MLB players receiving death threats from gamblers who blame them for their gambling losses.


Basically, if a team loses because of a player's error, blown save, or strikeout with the bases loaded, gamblers often blame that player for their losing bet. It wasn't the gambler's own failed wisdom, or the fact that he bet money he didn't have. No, of course not.


Arizona Diamondbacks closer Paul Sewald has been on the receiving end of some of these threats:


"You blow a save, you don't come through, you get it all," Sewald told USA Today. "It's 'F*** you. You suck. You cost me all of this money....I'm going to kill you and then kill your family.' It gets ugly really quickly. It's scary, and it's sad."


Giants' third baseman Matt Chapman revealed another problem: "Now that they have all that money on us, fans will talk a lot of shit to us. I'll even have fans Venmo me requesting money. I had to change my Venmo."


Despite reports and complaints from dozens of players, despite the inherent danger to players and the integrity of the game, MLB continues to shamelessly and endlessly promote its gambling partners.


It's sick. I've always believed that if you get in bed with the devil, bad things are going to happen.


Unfortunately, the train has left the station and gambling sponsorship money is pouring into MLB, NFL, NBA and NCAA coffers. 


Maybe if a player gets attacked or killed by a disgruntled gambler, the leagues will take notice.


But by then it'll be too late.


Barkley Gets It Right: I seldom agree with Charles Barkley, but he was right to criticize ESPN and ABC for spending so much time before and during the NBA Finals broadcast talking about the Lakers potential hiring of UConn coach Dan Hurley.


His point: Why spend so much time on a team that was eliminated in the first round of the playoffs, rather than concentrating on the two teams playing for the championship?


Agreed.


But what Barkley failed to mention was that the pre-game host, Malika Andrews, was conducting an interview about Hurley with another talking head, when the camera showed the Celtics coming onto the floor wearing shirts with "WALTON" emblazoned in tie-dyed colors.


Andrews should've immediately stopped the Hurley discussion to comment on the classy, emotional move by the Celtics to recognize Bill Walton, one of the greatest players in NBA history. Walton, who passed away last week, helped lead Boston to the '86 NBA title.


In fact, it took another 10 minutes for the announcers to mention Walton and show a shot of his family in one of the suites at the Boston Garden.


It's easy to see why the ABC/ESPN pre-game and halftime announcers are getting such bad reviews. They're clueless.




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Gary Cavalli - Bowl and League co-founder, author, speaker 

Gary Cavalli, the former Sports Information Director and Associate Athletic Director at Stanford University, was co-founder and executive director of the college football bowl game played in the Bay Area, and previously was co-founder and President of the American Basketball League.

Get in touch//@cavalli49//gacavalli49@gmail.com

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