Throughout the years we’ve seen the sports world evolve and slowly start giving women equal opportunities to excel and succeed in all aspects of it, whether that be as a game commentator, athlete, head coach, etc. We’ve seen barriers being broken by hundreds of women and we’ve come to a point where it feels like women can truly do now anything that their heart desires. No dream job is too big or out of reach. With that being said, we still experience some setbacks and moments where it feels like we are moving backward, rather than forward.
This past week we saw a setback in the way female athletes are looked at in comparison to male athletes when it was revealed how different the food, weight room, and gift bags the NCAA provided the women’s college basketball teams were from the men’s college basketball teams. This weekend marked the first games of March Madness, one of the biggest events in sports in the nation. Teams compete in games during March, with only the winner being able to move on. If you lose just one game, you’re sent home and your season is over. Due to the pandemic, the women’s college basketball teams and men’s college basketball teams will not be traveling and are staying in hotels in one region so that contact tracing can occur and positive COVID-19 tests could be held to a minimum. One of the athletes on Oregon’s women’s basketball team took to social media to share the difference between the weight room the NCAA provided the women in comparison to the weight room the men were provided. There was just a small rack of dumbbells and some yoga mats for the women, while the men received barbells with a variety of weights and workout machines to make use of. This sparked outrage because it felt that the NCAA really did not care about the women’s teams at all and looked at them almost like a joke. On top of that, the food the women were receiving appeared to be of a lower quality along with their gift bags as well.
The NCAA is a nonprofit organization that is required to comply with Title IX. This ensures that all athletes are treated with equal respect and that nobody has an advantage over the other. According to Title IX and what the NCAA has to follow, all sports are not required to have the same amount of money spent on them. This is because, for example, there may be more equipment needed by football players than soccer players, and for various other reasons. However, the same quality of equipment must be provided to all sports meaning the quality of the equipment football players receive must be the same as the quality of equipment soccer players receives. This is a direct quote from the NCAA’s “Title IX Frequently Asked Questions” section of their website:
“Title IX does allow for a discrepancy in the cost of the equipment as long as both the football and soccer player received the same quality of equipment. However, a female ice hockey player must receive the same protective equipment that a male ice hockey player would receive, in as much as the protective equipment is the same.”
Essentially, there was no reason for the NCAA to provide the women with anything less than they provided the men with at their respective tournaments and hotels. On social media, many people were arguing that the situation was similar to that of the NBA and WNBA. A lot of WNBA players are upset over pay and how they don’t receive the same benefits as NBA players. And while this is an upsetting issue of its own, this is not the same as the NCAA. The NBA and WNBA are two separate organizations and what they are paid and given solely depends on revenue and what the organizations bring in. They are not bound by Title IX the way that the NCAA is, and equal treatment regarding the amount of money spent on each organization is not required or breaking any rules. The NCAA did respond, however, to the issues that were presented and have since fixed their mistakes and provided the women’s teams with a legitimate weight room.
So while I am excited for the future and the progress that we have made as a society in respecting women and giving us equal opportunities, there is a lot more work to be done and we cannot continue to let mistakes like these continue to occur anymore.