Chicago Sky Owner Michael Alter Discusses the Path to the 2021 WNBA Championship and What It Will Take to Have Equity in Women’s Sports

The Chicago Sky won their first WNBA Championship on Oct. 17, bringing the long-awaited title home. Chicago Sky owner Michael Alter discussed the impact the title will have on the franchise, as well as the next steps for the organization, in a fireside chat on Nov. 1 with Susan B. Noyes, founder and chief visionary officer of Make It Better Media Group. Here’s what’s in store for the award-winning team.

The Sky and the City of Chicago

Alter never thought he would be involved in sports, let alone a women’s basketball team. Alter is also the president and owner of the Alter Group, a commercial real estate developer. His involvement in sports changed when he had the opportunity to meet some WNBA players and learned that Chicago didn’t currently have a team. For context, the WNBA was founded on April 22, 1996 — this fact left Alter “embarrassed and shocked.” 

He invested in the Sky back in 2005, but it was this season where the team won its first WNBA championship. Alter spoke on the importance of what this accomplishment means for the team and the city. 

“You know, the city has been going through a lot — we all have with COVID and (…) the inequities, and the crime and violence, and so I think it was like a huge release for so many people in the city and why so many people have been excited and engaged (…) by the championship,” Alter said. “It was everyone’s dream, everyone’s victory, and everyone’s championship.” 

When asked about the impact of this championship, Alter referenced Chicago’s rich sports history and his hope that the Sky will be regarded on a similar level to the city’s other winning teams.

“What we’re hoping is something, you know, we’ve been working on it for a long time in terms of really building the engagement and having the city really adopt this team the way it’s adopted the men’s teams.”

The Sky have had to “build their history,” Alter said, but he’s optimistic that change is coming, noting that ticket sales are already on the rise for next season. 

3 Key Players Involved in the Sky’s Championship 

Alter mentioned three players who were very impactful in the success of the Sky this year. Courtney Vandersloot, who Alter describes as “the heart and soul of this team,” was drafted by the Sky in 2011 and has remained loyal to the team her entire WNBA career. “She was very committed to making things work in Chicago,” Alter said. 

Kahleah Copper was another major factor in the team’s championship. She was traded to the Sky back in 2017. Copper was the MVP of the finals and a core piece in the team’s run. 

Lastly, Alter stated that Candace Parker signing with the team this year was a huge addition. Parker had spent her whole career with the Los Angeles Sparks, helping win a title for the organization.Alter said they eventually persuaded the Naperville native to return to her home state of Illinois. 

Alter said the team is determined to bring back as much of their core roster as possible for next season. 

How Can the WNBA Compete for More Financial Resources?

Despite the popularity of this year’s championship, Alter acknowledges that women’s leagues don’t have the same financial resources as most men’s leagues. 

“We have a long way to go in equity and in pay in professional sports between men and women. A very long way to go,” said Alter. Things have gotten better for women in the WNBA, Alter noted, it’s “pennies” compared to their NBA counterparts.

Alter recognizes that the WNBA needs to generate more money, but he’s optimistic about the changes that are taking place. The latest collective bargaining agreement for the WNBA has raised the amount of money women can make as well as provided more resources for the players. Additionally, the league has reached a new 10-year TV deal with ESPN. Alter knows the journey is not over for the money disparity between men’s and women’s sports, but he’s proud of the strides that have been made so far. 

Watch the full Fireside Chat below:

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Sam Stevenson is a journalism and media communication major at North Central College in Naperville, IL. He is an editor in chief for his school’s newspaper and he freelance writes for several sites, including Fansided and 24/7 Sports. He lives in Lisle, IL where he enjoys spending time with his family and dog Sully, playing video games with friends, and writing on his own time!

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