All eight of Chicago’s major-league professional sports teams signed on to a new public information campaign with a motto that would’ve been unthinkable in any year but 2020: “We Are Not Playing.”
The new campaign, announced Monday by Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s office, is intended to support the stay-at-home order in place throughout Illinois and most of the rest of the United States.
“I am grateful to each of our hometown teams for stepping up and doing their part by joining in this call for every neighborhood and community,” Lightfoot said in a press conference at Soldier Field. “They’re not playing, and neither are we. The more we stay home and act responsibly, the more lives we’ll save.”
The campaign will be spread on digital and physical billboards throughout the area, then move onto online and social media channels, per a press release.
“This is a disease that doesn’t discriminate. It really doesn’t,” Lightfoot said. “And young people—I remember back in the day thinking nothing could stop me. That I was invincible. If we can get credible messengers like sports athletes who can really reach sports fans, but also young people in particular — that’s why we’re activating this group of people. We know that they have cache. We know that they have reach.”
Easily recognizable athletes from every team — including Jonathan Toews of the Blackhawks, Jason Heyward of the Cubs, Eloy Jimenez of the White Sox and Coby White of the Bulls — will participate with videos and messages encouraging Chicagoans to stay home.
“Sports has always served as a great example of achieving a common goal and overcoming the odds,” Cubs executive chairman Tom Ricketts said. “If we can all do our part to follow public health guidelines to stay at home, we can slow or stop the spread of this disease. Stay inside so that we can come together and watch baseball soon.”
Although no pro sports have taken place in the city in weeks, the motto is still jarring during a time where nearly every Chicago team would normally be either in-season or gearing up for it.
The Cubs were initially scheduled to have finished a six-game homestand Sunday and start a series in Pittsburgh on Monday. The White Sox were supposed to host the Mariners in a Monday matinee, starting their own series.
The Blackhawks would’ve just concluded their regular season Saturday against the Rangers, and the Fire would’ve hosted the Red Bulls that same day. The Bulls would be starting a pair of Staples Center road games, Monday against the Clippers and Wednesday against the Lakers, with two home games left on the schedule.
And the Sky and Red Stars would have been anticipating their season openers a few weeks away.
Lightfoot was asked about the possibility of professional football and other major sporting events resuming without fans in the stands.
“We’re not at that point yet. But, I know that the various sports leagues are talking about a variety of different options, depending on how long the public health personnel believe that we need to be reducing the size of crowds,” she said.
Instead, the entire Chicago sports scene — along with much of the rest of the city — is paused indefinitely.
Monday’s campaign announcement seeks to translate that blatantly obvious reality into day-to-day behavior changes for fans of the seven teams, emphasizing self-isolation activities that will flatten the curve over time and limit the burden on the city’s overloaded medical system.
“For every sports team in Chicago, our fans have been there for us, in both good times and bad,” White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf said. “The teams receive so much support from our fans that it is our responsibility to give back whenever and however we can.”
“As far as time-outs go, none are more important to our fans than this one,” Blackhawks chairman Rocky Wirtz added. “All of us need to listen to the experts by staying off the field of play and stay at home. We owe that to ourselves, but we especially owe it the people that do not have that stay-at-home option, beginning with our front-line responders.”