Over decades, we have seen some of Chicago’s sports teams win it all. The streets flood with jerseys as the Cubs or Blackhawks parade their way through one of the largest cities in America. It has been five years since one of those moments happened, up until this recent women’s basketball season when the Chicago Sky earned the 2021 WNBA Championship title. Yet, if you asked even some of the biggest sport fanatics, they probably wouldn’t even blink an eye. Some probably wouldn’t know at all. The streets of Chicago were not filled with people, despite the long period of time since Chicago has had a winning team. This emptiness and nonchalant nature of this major sporting event has prompted me to wonder how a city this large could render such a small fanbase? Is the common joke “Would you rather find $5 on the ground or have your WNBA team win in your city?” not really a joke?
I remember the very first Chicago Sky game I went to. I was with my oldest brother. They were giving away “TITLE IX” t-shirts to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the amendment. I proudly walked around the stadium with the following words on my back:
“No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”
At that particular game, the halftime show provided some entertainment, typical at most sporting events. They were throwing various items into the crowd, one of them being mini basketballs with the team’s logo. One came close to my brother’s grasp but was just too out of
reach to snag. He shrugged it off and said, “If it was a fly-ball at a White Sox game I would have reached for it.”
The statement he made was not surprising to me. I could not be angry or upset for what he said; we are conditioned in a way that worships professional men’s sports. Catching a fly ball is a story people tell for decades after it happens. The part that upset me was not what my brother said, but why he said it. He did not mean it to be sexist or misogynistic. He was not undermining women’s professional sports. He was simply stating the truth: men’s sports hold a higher prominence than women’s in society — but why?
The Chicago Sky’s championship title was far more than just a “big win”— it was historic. This was the first championship title for the Chicago WNBA team. A sold-out stadium and an incredible performance by a group of strong, female athletes should have allotted for an intense amount of media coverage. That was not the case. My brother and one singular male friend reached out to me about this monumental moment in Chicago sports.
The small number of people that were aware of this cannot be blamed purely on the fact that people didn’t tune in and follow the Sky. Plenty of people watch only a handful of Chicago Bulls games during the season, but most could tell you whether or not they won the night before after scrolling on Twitter for less than five minutes. It is not that people are poor at following women’s teams — there is simply a lack of coverage. Unfortunately, this is very common in women’s sports.
A 2021 study noted that 80% of the coverage they watched did not include female athletes at all. Most clips are under a minute long and are washed beneath the men’s sports coverage. Despite the fact that men’s and women’s professional sports are in their own separate leagues, female athletes are still women working in a male-dominated field. The umbrella of
professional sports includes both men and women, but the light shines on one far more than the other. The lack of representation and understanding of the caliber at which these women play is overlooked. It is the same as female CEOs of large companies. This is their job, and they are not receiving the credit they deserve for it. These women are playing at the highest level and are still considered less talented or worthy of exposure than their male counterparts.
That TITLE IX shirt remained part of my wardrobe until my mom finally said that the shrunken, stained tee with holes in the armpits “needed to go.” For nearly three years I wore those words regularly on my back. It was more than a free article of clothing, but a statement I resonated with. The desire for representation and equality in women’s sports is something that needs more support. If we continue to ignore the underrepresented field that is women’s sports, we will continue to see empty streets during historic moments.
https://news.usc.edu/183765/womens-sports-tv-news-coverage-sportscenter-online-usc-study/ https://www.npr.org/2021/10/18/1047044155/chicago-sky-wnba-championship https://abc7chicago.com/chicago-sky-parade-route-rally-lori-lightfoot/11142597/