Chicagoans looking to jump on the Chicago Sky bandwagon after the team won its first WNBA title may have a tough time tracking down jerseys and T-shirts to show off their fandom before the team’s championship celebration Tuesday.
Fans can find Sky T-shirts and sweatshirts online, but that requires waiting for shipping. Options are slimmer in stores.
“There’s just not as much as you’d like for a league with people who are so willing to buy,” said Brian Panganiban, creator of social media fan account The Sky Show Chi. “I feel like merch is such a big part of sports fandom. You want to rep, contribute and show off your engagement with the team.”
Panganiban, 30, of Roscoe Village, posted photos of the selection at a handful of shops on Twitter during the playoffs, including a Dick’s Sporting Goods in Goose Island and the Michigan Avenue Nike store, with the hashtag #WNBAWeNeedMerch.
Dick’s Sporting Goods tends to be fans’ best bet for finding items in bricks-and-mortar stores, he said. An employee at the chain’s Goose Island location said the store had Sky apparel, but championship T-shirts and sweatshirts available online wouldn’t be on store shelves in Chicago until later this week.
J.C. Penney carries Sky merchandise online, but not in stores. Wrigleyville’s Sports World Chicago, which doesn’t see a lot of demand for Sky apparel and bought a relatively small amount, sold out earlier in the season, said owner Brad Rosen.
There are more options online, but even there, jerseys can be scarce. Fanatics and Lids didn’t list any Sky jerseys in their online stores. At both Nike and Dick's Sporting Goods, the only player with a jersey available in adult sizes online was Diamond DeShields. At Dick’s Sporting Goods, kids could choose DeShields or Courtney Vandersloot’s jersey.
Cheryl Bernard said she and her daughter Taylor, 12, have been looking for Candace Parker and Kahleah Copper jerseys since August, with no luck — even at the shop at Wintrust Arena when they went to Sky games. Retailers have also had trouble keeping certain jerseys in stock for teams in other leagues, including the White Sox, because of supply chain issues.
Bernard purchased championship T-shirts after the team’s win, but the online store warned her they might not ship until Nov. 1.
“Call me silly, I guess I thought they’d have this stuff ready,” said Bernard, 37, of Forest Park. “When a team wins the Super Bowl, they have it. They’re doing the ladies a disservice here.”
Leah von Essen, 27, of Hyde Park, said it reminded her of challenges finding apparel celebrating the U.S. women’s soccer team during the 2019 World Cup. Her boyfriend — a former WNBA skeptic — is now enough of a fan to want a Candace Parker jersey, except there are none to be found.
“People make these arguments that equal pay doesn’t come because women’s sports don’t make enough revenue, and opportunities like this are repeatedly missed,” she said.
The team’s success and growing enthusiasm convinced at least one Chicago sports fan apparel shop to add Sky merchandise to its shelves for future seasons.
Clark Street Sports had been considering starting to carry the team’s apparel earlier this year but hadn’t placed any orders, said co-owner Jason Caref. In the past he wasn’t sure whether there would be enough interest, but this season left no doubt.
“The amount of people calling us over the last few days has been tremendous,” Caref said.