This past month, images of the NCAA basketball tournament facilities sparked outrage when outsiders saw the unequal and separated training areas, bringing to light the blatant gender gaps and discrepancies within college athletics.
For the duration of the tournament, the men’s basketball teams were provided state-of-the-art weight-training facilities, including racks of bars and weights, while the women participating in the tournament were only given a single set of dumbbells under 30 pounds and a handful of yoga mats.
In response to the surfaced facilities photos, Lynn Holzman, NCAA vice president of women’s basketball, stated, “We acknowledge that some of the amenities teams would typically have access to have not been as available inside the controlled environment.”
She added, “We are actively working to enhance existing resources at practice courts, including additional weight training equipment.”
Rather than acknowledging the root of the problem – extensive funding gaps – Holzman excused the disparities by claiming limited space was to blame for the inability to expand the women’s amenities.
This excuse is unconvincing, especially as photos taken by players showed plenty of empty space in the women’s bubble.
TikTok videos posted by Sedona Prince, a member of the Oregon women’s basketball team, showed the food and swag bags provided to athletes during their time in the bubble. The subject matter in the videos that have surfaced underscores the outrageous gender inequalities found within and perpetrated by the NCAA.
While the men received buffet-style meals, the women were given only to-go containers worth of mediocre food and prepackaged snacks that frankly looked disgusting.
The men received substantial swag bags containing sweatshirts, hats, towels, and more displaying the March Madness and NCAA logos. They were also given full-size products and other March Madness merch.
The women were given a shirt, towel, hat, water bottles, and an umbrella. Not one of their first gifts was embellished with the March Madness logo. Rather, they were simply inscribed, “NCAA women’s basketball.”
Although a wider array of training equipment and more appetizing meals were provided for the women basketball teams after the photos were released, it took considerable public outrage before any change was made.
It should not take the world knowing of the inequities between male and female athletics for women to receive the same food, resources, and equipment as their male counterparts.
This is a bad look for the NCAA and shows that officials don’t care about the extensive disparities. In fact, they violated their own gender equity policies.
Ironically, the NCAA website declares Title IX gender equality regulations apply to all educational institutions that receive federal funding, and “athletics programs are considered educational programs.” The website also claims Title IX requires “equal treatment” of athletes’ facilities, equipment, and dining services.
The NCAA can’t make excuses about the COVID-19 pandemic making it more difficult to provide resources for the women’s teams because it has a long and disgusting history of providing inequitable resources to female athletes.
The New York Times reported there was a $13.5 million funding gap between the 2019 men’s and women’s college basketball tournaments – before the pandemic hit.
The Times also reported CBS and Turner Sports hold a $19.6 billion contract to televise the men’s tournament for 22 years, which is significantly larger than ESPN’s $500 million agreement to televise the women’s tournament for 14 years. The men’s coverage contract is worth about 25 times more than the women’s.
Many female players and their coaches noted the lack of “March Madness” branding on their courts, which draws significantly more fans to men’s tournament games.
Both male and female athletes play the same sports. They undergo the same training. They achieve the same level of physical athleticism. Men’s and women’s sports in all aspects – except financially – are the exact same.
There is no reason why the same branding shouldn’t be applied to games played by female student athletes.
Rather than rewarding male teams with more funding because they bring in a higher viewership, the NCAA needs to put the same amount of effort into advertising and funding women’s sports.
The NCAA needs to start providing heavy weights and buffet-style meals for all their athletes – not just the men.
The NCAA has a responsibility to do right by all college athletes, not line their pockets because of gender bias.
The decision to treat all athletes equitably should be a slam-dunk.