Pat McAfee-Caitlin Clark comments, explained: ESPN host refers to Fever star as ‘white b—’ on talk show

ESPN knew it was taking a risk when it shelled out big bucks to bring the popular but irreverent “Pat McAfee Show” to its family of networks.

Part of McAfee’s appeal is his off-the-cuff nature and willingness to speak his mind. That made his show successful, but it also created worries for ESPN about what he might say on air every day.

Sure enough, McAfee has been responsible for a handful of controversies while with the company. From feuds with fellow company members Stephen A. Smith and Norby Williamson to off-color jokes about Nebraska guard Keisei Tominaga and disgraced doctor Larry Nassar made on or in association with the show, McAfee’s show has created problems for ESPN.

His latest comments about Caitlin Clark will also put the network in an awkward position.

ESPN has a vested interest in the WNBA, as the network owns broadcast rights to the league. While McAfee has been a proponent of Clark and the league, he described her in a way that many sports fans believed was disrespectful.

Here’s what to know about McAfee’s comments about Clark and the WNBA’s rookie class.

MORE: Pat McAfee, Stephen A. Smith share same opinion about future of ‘Inside The NBA’

What did Pat McAfee say about Caitlin Clark?

McAfee included a segment on his show Monday meant to showcase the importance of Clark to the WNBA’s success.

His main points? Clark had participated in four of the league’s highest-rated games in 2024 and is averaging more viewers per game than any WNBA rookie.

“What the WNBA currently has is what we like to describe as a cash cow,” McAfee said. “There is a superstar.”

McAfee clarified he wasn’t asking the players to treat Clark differently than they already were.

However, he put his foot in his mouth when he implored “media people” to focus on acknowledging Clark’s superiority over her fellow rookies.

“I would like the media people that continue to say, ‘This rookie class, this rookie class, this rookie class.’ Nah, just call it for what it is,” McAfee said. “There’s one white b— for the Indiana team who is a superstar.”

Unsurprisingly, McAfee calling Clark a “white b—” in his analysis of her performance was poorly received. Many called the talk show host — and ESPN — out on social media for his characterization of Clark. They also called out the juxtaposition of his call for everyone to respect Clark while he simultaneously called her a derogatory term.

It should be noted McAfee attempts to praise Clark culminated in him calling out proponents of the narrative that Clark’s popularity is due to her race. That topic was given air time on shows like “The View.”

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“Is there a chance that people just enjoy watching her play basketball because of how electrifying she is? What she did, what she stood for, how she went about going for what she went for? Maybe,” McAfee said. “But instead, we have to hear people say we all like her because she’s white. And she’s only popular because of what the rest of the rookie class is doing. Well, that’s a bunch of bulls—.”

MORE: How Chennedy Carter’s foul sparked rivalry with Caitlin Clark

Perhaps he viewed his “white b—” comment as the proper build-up to that argument. Either way, it was a miscalculation given the blowback he received for it.

McAfee addressed his comments later in the day, apologizing for using the term he did to describe Clark. He said that he has “way too much respect for her and women to put that into the universe” and he intended the “white b—” remark to be complimentary. 

McAfee also stated that he sent a personal apology directly to Clark and the Fever PR team.

Despite that, McAfee appeared to reference his own comments while calling WWE’s Monday Night Raw. He referred to one of the wrestlers as a “big, white son of a b—.”

Was that a double-down, or an attempt to make light of what he said earlier? It isn’t clear.

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What is clear is that ESPN may be forced to say something even despite McAfee’s apology, especially since McAfee’s clip was the second clip of the network’s women’s sports coverage debate to go viral. The first was Monica McNutt’s call-out of Stephen A. Smith on Monday’s episode of “First Take.”

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