Editorial: Celebrating the Sky and remembering the progress still to be made

  • Candace Parker of Naperville celebrates with her teammates at the 2021 WNBA Champion Chicago Sky Rally Tuesday in Chicago.

    Candace Parker of Naperville celebrates with her teammates at the 2021 WNBA Champion Chicago Sky Rally Tuesday in Chicago. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

 
Posted10/22/2021 7:00 PM

At this week's celebration for the Chicago Sky, player Candace Parker recalled watching Chicago Bulls championship rallies years ago from her home in Naperville.

She hoped then to one day appear on stage as Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen had -- a dream of athletic glory not typically nurtured and rarely realized for girls.

 

Yet last Sunday, Parker and her teammates beat the Phoenix Mercury to claim the Sky's first WNBA title and give Chicago its first major championship since the Cubs won the World Series in 2016.

Sunday's win and Tuesday's rally delivered more than a trophy for generations of girls who'd grown up being told to play with Barbies over basketballs. It delivered an important recognition of female athletes who have, for far too long, been grossly overshadowed by men.

"This entire incredible team, you make our city and our state so proud," Gov. J.B. Pritzker said. "Young athletes across the nation will look up to you and see themselves in you."

Note, the governor said athletes. Not girl athletes. Not women athletes. Just athletes.

And that's the way it should be. We should celebrate accomplishments -- and the work it takes to get there -- regardless of gender.

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Parker and the Sky bring us one step closer to that, but there is a long way to go.

You can find Bulls gear almost anywhere, even on years when championship rallies are well out of reach. Finding a Sky T-shirt is far more challenging.

Then, of course, there's pay. Yahoo Finance in July contrasted NBA and WNBA salaries. Top NBA contracts exceeded $40 million per season. The women? Only seven players hit the league's "supermax" salary of $221,450 at the time. In fact, many WNBA stars also play overseas, where the pay is better.

And finally, there's the way we treat our budding athletes -- those tossing pitches at local parks, scoring goals at neighborhood hockey rinks and shooting free throws in school gyms. Are we even close to treating male and female athletes equally?

The inequity took on an ugly glare during the NCAA basketball tournaments in March when it came to light that the women's weight rooms fell far below the men's. In addition, the women were getting pathetic box meals while the men enjoyed a buffet with steaks and lobster mac 'n' cheese. Swag bags for the men were three times the size of the women's.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Plus, the men were being tested for COVID-19 with more accurate tests than the woman.

Yes, progress against inequity must continue to be made.

In the meanwhile, we are grateful to the Sky for bringing the WNBA trophy to Chicago -- and to players such as Parker who show us there is more than one road to victory.

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