Indianapolis Star bars columnist Gregg Doyel from covering Caitlin Clark, Fever after inappropriate exchange

Caitlin Clark during her preseason debut with the Indiana Fever. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

The Indianapolis Star has barred sports columnist Gregg Doyel from covering Caitlin Clark and the Indiana Fever this summer following his exchange with the WNBA rookie in her introductory news conference.

The Star confirmed the decision in an email to the Washington Post on Tuesday following a report by journalist and former Star columnist Bob Kravitz.

“Indianapolis Star sports columnist Gregg Doyel will not be covering the Indiana Fever,” Star spokesperson Lark-Marie Anton wrote in an email to The Post.

Kravitz also reported that Doyel was in the midst of a two-week suspension. The Star didn't confirm his suspension, but the Post cited a source familiar with the situation that Doyel is, indeed, suspended without pay.

Doyel referred the Post to the Star when it reached out to him for comment.

The ban and reported suspension stems from Doyel's interaction with Clark during her April 17 news conference with the Fever after being selected first overall in the WNBA Draft. Doyel flashed a heart sign with his hands at Clark during an awkward interaction.

“Hi, Caitlin, Gregg Doyel, Indy Star. Real quick, let me do this,” Doyel said to Clark before flashing a heart sign.

“You like that?” Clark asked.

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

“I do that at my family after every game, so,” Clark said.

“OK, well start doing that to me and we’ll get along just fine,” Doyel responded.

Doyel's comments and interaction drew widespread rebuke from fellow media members and ultimately prompted an apology from Doyel on social media.

“Today in my uniquely oafish way, while welcoming Caitlin Clark to Indy, I formed my hands into her signature [heart],” Doyel wrote. “My comment afterward was clumsy and awkward. I sincerely apologize.

“Please know my heart (literally and figuratively) was well-intentioned. I will do better.”

He later wrote in a column further apologizing to Clark that he was "devastated to realize I’m part of the problem."

"After going through denial, and then anger — I’m on the wrong side of this? Me??? — I now realize what I said and how I said it was wrong, wrong, wrong," Doyel wrote. "I mean it was just wrong.

"Caitlin Clark, I’m so sorry."

Clark has not publicly addressed the situation, and the WNBA declined comment to the Post on Tuesday.

Doyel is a longtime columnist for the Star and a prominent member of Indianapolis sports media. He's now banned from directly covering one of the biggest stories in the city and in all of sports. Per the Post, he'll be permitted to write about the team but won't be allowed to cover games or team events in person.

Clark rose to national prominence during her ascent as college basketball's all-time leading scorer with Iowa. She's contributed to an explosion of growth in women's basketball that's resulted in dramatic increases in TV ratings. Her arrival to the WNBA alongside that of fellow prominent rookies is expected to spur a spike in interest in the league that's already experiencing an era of growth.

Clark made her preseason debut with the Fever on Friday, scoring a game-high 21 points while hitting 5 of 13 3-pointers. The Fever are scheduled to play their regular-season opener against the Connecticut Sun on May 14.