Chicago Police ‘did not advise’ WNBA to close All-Star events to public

Chance the Rapper participated in the Chicago Sky’s 2021 WNBA championship parade. (Kena Krutsinger/NBAE via Getty Images)

The Chicago Police Department did not advise the WNBA to close outdoor events to fans over gun violence concerns during the league’s All-Star weekend, a department representative told WTTW News.

WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert said Sunday that “security concerns” were one of the reasons that the league opted not to allow fans into Chance the Rapper’s free concert Saturday night.

Fans were not allowed into the All-Star game’s skills competition and 3-point contest Saturday, which were held at McCormick Place convention center. The venue was hosting the Nike Nationals youth tournament, and the bleachers around the court featured Elite Youth Basketball League players.

Chance the Rapper’s concert took place outside the convention center. Attendance to the concert was limited to EYBL players, WNBA players and guests of the league.

“There’s also a lot going on in our world around security and even having an outdoor festival at this very crazy time as you see shootings and people driving into restaurants with outdoor diners and things like that,” Engelbert said. “Because of all the security concerns across this country, we couldn’t open it totally to the public.

“This year because we wanted to do it right across the street in McCormick Place, we consulted with security experts, Chicago PD, our WNBA security experts, and that’s what we decided to do. Again, security concerns had limited the actual live crowd that could be there.”

When asked by WTTW News about the safety concerns, Chicago Police Department spokesperson Tom Ahern said the WNBA never consulted the department. Additionally, there were no threats made to the game or events surrounding it.

“The Chicago Police Department did not advise the WNBA to cancel or not to hold outdoor events,” Ahern said. “If there were concerns, the Chicago Police Department would have handled them appropriately.”

The WNBA has acknowledged that the weekend fell short of some fans’ expectations, with Engelbert admitting that they had “cobbled together” elements of the event.

“I understand the fans are frustrated not attending that, but again, last year we weren’t at 100%, the year before we didn’t have an All-Star Game, so we’re kind of just trying to build what All-Star weekend will look like,” she said. “We’re just trying to do the best we could with the cards we were dealt this year.”