The WNBA might have a problem in Chicago after the 2022 All-Star Game last weekend. The normal All-Star Came activities were without the usual outdoor fan engagement activities, but not for the reasons you might think in the age of COVID-19.
WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert believed that the gun violence in Chicago was a reason to halt any planned outdoor activities. Surprisingly, the event would have been with Chicago, rap star Chance The Rapper.
Chicago summers are the cold weather break that the Windy City begs for every year, and the WNBA wasn’t able to take Chance The Rapper up on a publicly attended outdoor concert to celebrate the 18th annual All-Star game.
“Rap. Chicago. Violence. She definitely hit the stereotype triple double,” tweeted sportswriter Justin Tinsley.
Rap. Chicago. Violence. She definitely hit the stereotype triple double. https://t.co/plcfPralna
— Justin Tinsley (@JustinTinsley) July 10, 2022
“We would have loved to have opened that up to the public,” Engelbert said to the press on Sunday. “Because of security concerns dating way back to Mandalay Bay [2017 Las Vegas mass shooting], dating back to other things that have happened here in Chicago, Uvalde and Buffalo, there’s a lot of concern about outdoor events right now, unfortunately, in our country. So we were just trying to do the best we could.”
Ironically, the iconic outdoor festival the Taste of Chicago, occurred a mere two miles from McCormick Place, where the WNBA’s limited outdoor events were happening. Also, Chance The Rapper is the polar opposite of Chicago drill music or anything perceived gangster.
The reaction from the Twitterverse was strong, and the implication was that Engelbert and the WNBA were tone-deaf about the assumption an outdoor rap concert would cause violence.
Gun violence in Chicago at a CHANCE show?
— Matt Brown (@MattBrownEP) July 10, 2022
Additionally, only select youth basketball players, WNBA corporate partners, and players themselves were admitted to the Chance the Rapper concert, which was held indoors. So having rap music wasn’t the problem; just allowing Chance’s Chicago fans the ability to enjoy live and in-person could have been potentially dangerous in the WNBA’s view.
Nike Nationals participants, their families, All-Star players’ families, friends, and select Sky season-ticket holders were also the only ones to secure tickets to the traditional skills and three-point challenge competitions last Saturday.
However, Englebert’s assumption was most likely rooted in the close timing proximity that some violent events occurred in the Chicagoland area.
During the Fourth of July weekend, the nation was jolted by a premeditated mass shooting in Highland Park, Illinois, that killed six people and wounded dozens. That wasn’t all, as the communities on Chicago’s South and West sides saw the death and injury toll surpass Highland Park’s during the same weekend as at least eight people were fatally shot and 68 injured by gun violence.
Chicago throws hundreds of concerts, festivals and events in the summer with no violence. This decision seems ill informed. https://t.co/ZXOGRpN6Dj
— Brandon Pope TV (@BpopeTV) July 10, 2022
Still, Engelbert cited that the Wintrust Arena wasn’t available to the WNBA on Saturday because of a Pampered Chef event as a better explanation for why there were so few fan activities.
“Cobbling together everything that’s going on, coming off two tough COVID years and not having Wintrust available yesterday, it just wasn’t possible to have a fan event,” Engelbert said to the press. “We didn’t have an arena to have it in here in the city of Chicago.”
Will Chicago host the All-Star weekend again, and if so, will it trust that the gun violence won’t spill into the festivities, even if a rapper’s included?
If the arena is available next go-round, then we will see.