March Madness is the prime time of year to witness the best of the best in college basketball. It is also, apparently, when we get to see the most blatant sexist inequities that exist between men’s and women’s college basketball, especially within their ‘bubble’ environments that are unique to this year’s tournaments.
On March 18, University of Oregon redshirt sophomore forward Sedona Prince shared a video on TikTok that showed just how different the amenities are for the men’s tournament in Indianapolis versus the women’s tournament in San Antonio.
To say the video made me frustrated would be the definition of an understatement. The tiny weights arranged in their minuscule stack in San Antonio versus the fully-stocked giant weight room in Indianapolis is clear evidence that the NCAA is not nearly as invested in the women’s tournament facilities than the men’s.
The video went viral on plenty of social media platforms, prompting the NCAA to try and come up with an excuse for their inappropriate behavior. The best they could muster at first was that the discrepancies stemmed from an issue with inadequate space in San Antonio.
Price’s video shows clearly, though, that the San Antonio training area had the available space but just not an organization willing to put in the effort to fill it.
Since then, other coaches and athletes have chimed in, bringing to light the differences in COVID-19 testing protocols and the quality of food provided in the respective tournament bubbles. The weight room is just one bullet on a list of aspects in which female athletes are being mistreated, and that’s only at the collegiate level.
Buckling under pressure, the NCAA issued another response. The organization set up a new and improved weight room and addressed the issues of food quality with a shockingly quick turnaround.
The NCAA’s response is adorable at best, and an obvious show of ignorance and planned harm at worst. The fact that it was able to pull together a weight room so quickly and get things all squared away very early on in the tournament is telling of just how little the organization prioritized the female athletes’ well-being.
There would have been nothing to fix if the NCAA had just provided the same resources in the women’s bubble as they did for the men’s. They obviously had these resources from the get-go.
We absolutely should be outraged at the NCAA and use the momentum to keep demanding more for women’s sports across the board. We cannot forget about the blatant sexism simply because there is a new weight room now.
I know we get tired of this analogy, but the organization’s response is the classic band-aid solution to the severely problematic issue of sexism in athletics. The new weight room is by no means a solution to the problem of the chronic discrepancies between men’s and women’s sports.
Testing, exercise equipment and food are all critical aspects of physical and mental well-being, and the NCAA has proven that they do not value those for women as much as they do for men.
I have to say that I admire Price’s response to the new weight room, which was overwhelmingly positive. She praised the NCAA for listening and is excited to get on with the tournament.
But the fight for equality in women’s sports is so far from over. Although the women’s teams will be better served throughout the 2021 tournament, the NCAA’s damage has been done and I am really hopeful that it will make long-term changes to better support women’s sports.
What will it take so that female athletes don’t have to resort to exposing and embarrassing the NCAA before they get the amenities we all know they deserve? What can we do to change how the world views women’s sports?
As outraged as I am about this year’s tournament bubbles, I am equally unsurprised. It is a well-established fact that plenty of disparities exist between women’s and men’s sports, not only at the collegiate level, but at a professional level as well.
It is just disappointing that while time progresses, organizations like the NCAA do not.
Additionally, the irony is not lost on me that this was the season many teams on both the men’s and women’s side decided to play for equality this season. Social justice movements have fueled this season for many teams across the country, which I think makes this situation even more disappointing.
I know plenty of Zags are upset about this scenario, but there are so many ways in which we don’t give women’s sports the respect that they deserve on our own campus. We can use our anger and disappointment toward how the NCAA handled this year’s tournament and advocate more for women’s sports here in Spokane.
For example, how many consecutive years does our women’s basketball team have to be nationally ranked before we build up a consistently full student section at every home game?
How long before we have a tent city for a women’s game?
Lastly, while I am angry and believe we should continue to push for eradicating the huge discrepancies between men’s and women’s sports, as the tournament keeps going we are doing more harm than good by continuing to have our focus be about the weight room. At least for now.
This fight is far from over, but for now let’s focus on actually watching the games that are happening in San Antonio. Let’s truly support women’s athletics and bring that same energy that we bring when we watch the men’s tournament.
So, read this and get mad. Stay mad. I know I will. But still direct your focus to the phenomenal level that so many women’s college basketball teams are playing at right now.
We have a lifetime to roast the NCAA, but only a few more weeks of watching high-quality basketball this year.