In the last few days, Caitlin Clark has signed a contract to play basketball for the Indiana Fever, agreed to a shoe contract in the eight-figure range with Nike, and saw at least three WNBA teams either propose or make changes to their home games whenever Indiana comes to town.

Here in the U.S., there have been a number of times over history when a singular product, available in only one place, creates an enormous demand that affects local and even national economies, including entire industries.

One of the first times this happened was when Milton Berle became such a reknowned television star after his vaudeville and radio appearances that the sale of televisions grew by some two million in 1949. Given the scant number of homes with TVs back then, that was an enormous growth.

There have been measurable economic effects from popular recording artists such as Beyonce and Taylor Swift, who have seen fans flock to not only concerts, but to local hotels, bars, and restaurants. The Chicago Sun-Times estimated that Swift’s tour led to some $5 billion in economic activity.

Too, their presences on digital music streaming services has led to large amounts of money spent on them. For a time, Tidal was bolstered by exclusive content from Beyonce.

But there have also been a number of sports performers whose popularity led to a clamoring for tickets. In the 1970s, when Pele came to the New York Cosmos, his inaugural game took place in June 1975 at Downing Stadium in New York. The throngs of people coming to see him took over not only the bleachers at the old park, but hillsides and bridges overlooking the facility.

In more recent years, there has been a bump up in ticket demand when David Beckham joined the Los Angeles Galaxy 20 years ago. More recently, there have been instances when games were moved to larger arenas to accommodate the throngs of fans looking to witness Lionel Messi playing for Inter Miami.

Clark is set to have major economic and social effects on women’s basketball and American sport.

But, like Messi, there are going to be a lot of unspoken pressures. And part of that is the pressure to perform or to even take the pitch. On more than one occasion the last six months, he missed out on games which saw fans pay thousands of dollars to see either the Argentina national team or Inter play live.

With Clark, she is being asked to play a 40-game schedule between May 14 and September 19. That would only be about six weeks after concluding a 39-game season with the University of Iowa.

It’s a tall task, and one which could overwhelm players. We’ve seen players come into the league and succeed for a time before the time in the limelight consumed them — players like Chamique Holdsclaw, Shoni Schimmel, and Liz Cambage.

I’m hoping that Clark will have an injury-free and controversy-free initial season. If she does, the ceiling for the professional women’s game is unlimited.


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