CHICAGO — Mayor Lori Lightfoot is enlisting the help of Chicago’s sports teams to urge residents to stay home as the city works to stop the spread of coronavirus.
Lightfoot walked onto Soldier Field with a backdrop of empty seats behind her on Monday morning to launch an ad campaign called “We Are Not Playing” in conjunction with the Bears, Blackhawks, Bulls, Cubs, Fire, Red Stars, Sky and White Sox.
The campaign will start with digital ads and public billboards and include social media messages and videos from players encouraging people to comply with the state’s stay-at-home order. It comes on top of Lightfoot’s humorous “Stay Home, Save Lives” public service announcements last week.
“We love our sports in Chicago, and we’d rather be here in Soldier Field or Wrigley or Sox Park or the United Center or Wintrust, cheering on our players and having a good time with our friends,” Lightfoot said. “But as we know, this crisis has changed almost everything, and particularly our sports. Coming to these parks would be dangerous and deadly to ourselves and to our city. … They’re not playing, and neither are we. Thanks to their support, we’ll be leveraging their vast network to drill down on the message of ‘stay home and save lives’ here in Chicago and across our state.”
As she was speaking to reporters at the press conference, the teams tweeted out photos of their empty stadiums, with the words “We are not playing and neither should you” on top. The eight teams’ Twitter accounts have around 12 million followers combined.
Lightfoot hopes the campaign will use the influence of local athletes to make a difference, noting how she saw a group of young people light up at the sight of the Bulls’ Zach LaVine during NBA All-Star weekend in Chicago.
White Sox outfielder Eloy Jimenez and Cubs catcher Willson Contreras were among the players to immediately share messages. Contreras delivered an Instagram video in Spanish, while Jimenez spoke in a video on the Sox’s Twitter account.
“Be a hero — stay at home,” Jimenez said. “Do your part to slow the spread of COVID-19 and stay at home and save lives. Go Sox. Hi Mom!”
Foote, Cone and Belding Chicago developed the ad campaign and provided creative, design and digital work pro bono, according to a press release. The announcement featured statements by executives from eight of Chicago’s professional sports teams explaining why they were participating.
“I have always said that this is the greatest city in the world, and we all have a crucial role to play to protect the place we are lucky to call home,” Bulls President Michael Reinsdorf said. “Teamwork, looking out for one another and coming together as a community is needed now more than ever. Do your part by staying home to help everyone on the front lines working tirelessly throughout this pandemic to save lives.”
The NBA, NHL and MLS have all suspended their seasons, while Major League Baseball, the National Women’s Soccer League and the WNBA have postponed the starts of their seasons. NFL employees currently are preparing for the draft remotely while team facilities are closed.
Lightfoot acknowledged the shutdowns impact far more than team executives and players, and praised teams that have paid their workers despite the suspended seasons. The Bulls and Blackhawks announced March 14 they would pay approximately 1,200 United Center game-day workers through the remainder of their originally scheduled seasons.
“This crisis has been hard on all of us, and that very much includes our sports teams, who had to completely shut down their operations in order to keep us safe,” Lightfoot said. “This has not only impacted the lives of the athletes and the front-office personnel, but the countless vendors, ticket handlers, custodians, maintenance crews and others whose livelihoods are based on having tens of thousands of fans packing our stadiums every day. That’s why I want to commend the team leaders who have announced their plans to continue supporting these employees despite games being canceled. It’s these kinds of actions that will allow our city to get through this crisis and get back on track as quickly as possible.”
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