Chicago Sky title brings the WNBA and women’s sports to the forefront

The Sky’s first-ever WNBA title earned a well-deserved front-page honor in the Chicago Tribune Monday.

First title for city since Cubs championship clincher in 2016

[Editor’s note: This post was updated on October 21st to add local ratings information.]

While a certain quarterback for an NFL team north of the state line claims he owns the football team that plays on the Lakefront, there is one team he can’t lay claim to – and it’s ours.

While the Bears were getting whipped by the Packers at Soldier Field Sunday, two miles away at Wintrust Arena the Chicago Sky was in the WNBA Finals at the same time playing Game 4 against the Phoenix Mercury, seeking to clinch their first championship.

After falling behind early in the game, the Sky staged a fourth-quarter comeback to clinch their first WNBA title and the first championship in the city since the Cubs’ historic World Series win in 2016.

The title was especially sweet for now-three-time WNBA champion Candace Parker, who is a native of west suburban Naperville and played basketball at Naperville Central High School. She signed with the Sky during the off-season and immediately boosted the team’s fortunes.

The October 18 edition of the Sun-Times has the Sky on the front cover.

Not bad for a franchise who came on the scene as an expansion team in 2006 as the WNBA did not have a team in the nation’s third-largest market for nearly a decade. The team moved to the South Loop and into Wintrust Arena from Rosemont’s Allstate Arena in 2018. The Sky played their first four seasons at the UIC Pavilion (now Credit Union 1 Arena.)

Unlike several other WNBA franchises, the Chicago Sky is one of the few who are not affiliated with the NBA team in the same city, as Sky ownership is different from the Chicago Bulls.

Ratings for the 2021 WNBA finals were up from previous seasons. As noted in the previous post, Game 2 of the Mercury-Sky on ESPN drew 789,000 viewers, the highest-rated WNBA in five years. Game 1 – on ABC opposite NFL games on CBS and Fox, drew 456,000, also a five-year high. Game three on ESPN drew 524,000 viewers and game four Sunday on ESPN – again opposite the NFL drew 417,000 viewers, down from a week ago but up 32 percent from 2019. In all, the Mercury-Sky series drew 548,000 viewers on average, the most-watched WNBA Finals in five years. 

In Chicago, the four games averaged a 1.8 Nielsen household rating, double of what Phoenix earned throughout the series. Sunday’s Packers-Bears game drew a 21.6 household rating, down from last week’s 3 p.m. game. The Sky started at 2 p.m., overlapping with the last hour of the football game. 

The Sky’s championship will likely give a boost to the team’s lackluster media rights as the value of those would skyrocket. Outside of ESPN/ABC and NBA TV, the Sky’s only local media deal is with Weigel’s Broadcasting The U (WCUU 26.2/WMEU 48.1), a channel not available to DirecTV subscribers unless you have an antenna. The team currently doesn’t have a local radio deal, the last one with WVON in 2008. A championship could make them an asset to potential suitors.

The parade (which many on social media noted for the sparse turnout) and rally took place Tuesday downtown and in the South Loop and was carried by six local stations, with one notable exception: 

 

There was some swearing during the rally (especially from superfan Chance The Rapper) that made it on the air, but don’t expect anyone to make a big deal about it. After all, this is Chicago! 

Perhaps the best visual of the day came from Maggie Hendricks, who snapped this pic of the door a Mercury player broke at Wintrust Arena after their loss to the Sky and it wound up on the stage: 

Since Aaron Rodgers “owns” Chicago now, maybe he can come pick up his door. 

Congratulations to the Chicago Sky for winning their first WNBA Championship! 

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