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The NCAA is Plagued with Sexism, and Weight Racks are Just the Start



The NCAA’s outright sexism has been made evident by the disparities between the men’s and women’s basketball tournaments this March Madness. Women’s players, such as University of Oregon forward Sedona Prince, have used social media to bring us behind-the-scenes and expose the unequal treatment first-hand, and the clear differences between weight rooms, swag bags, meals, and COVID testing protocol have made it evident which tournament matters more to the NCAA. 

Coaches, players, and celebrities—notably Vanessa Bryant, wife of the late Kobe Bryant—helped spread these social media posts and demanded that immediate changes be made by the NCCA.  Companies offered their own support, with Dick’s Sporting Goods offering to bring “truckloads of equipment” and Orange Theory offering to open their studios for private sessions.  The NCAA made the proper changes to the women’s facilities to correct their mistakes, but their blatant sexism can’t be fixed as easily. NCAA President Mark Emmert announced last week that he would be calling for an independent review of the processes that led to the disparities showcased in this year’s tournament. 

Georgia Tech women’s basketball coach Nell Fortner took to Twitter to share her thoughts, writing “thank you for using the three biggest weeks of your organization’s year to expose exactly how you feel about women’s basketball — an afterthought. Thank you for showing off the disparities between the men’s and women’s tournament that are on full display in San Antonio, from coronavirus testing, to lack of weight training facilities, to game floors that hardly tell anyone that it’s the NCAA Tournament and many more. But these disparities are just a snapshot of larger, more pervasive issues when it comes to women’s sports and the NCAA. Shipping in a few racks of weights, after the fact, is not an answer. It’s a Band-Aid and an afterthought.” 

Fortner hit the nail on its head in saying that these disparities are just a small example of the NCAA’s sexism problem. In the Supreme Court case NCAA v. Smith, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the NCAA does not need to comply with Title IX’s rules as the organization does not receive federal funding, unlike colleges and universities. Though the NCAA stated in 1999 that they would voluntarily comply, without Title IX ,collegiate athletes lack concrete protection and could easily be mistreated by the NCAA because of this loophole. Despite their statement of compliance, the NCAA initially lobbied against Title IX, filing an unsuccessful lawsuit in 1976 that challenged its application to sports. 

The NCAA also does not financially reward the women’s basketball teams for tournament wins as they reward the men’s basketball teams. The men receive over a billion dollars’ worth of conference bonuses from 1997 to 2018, and the women have received nothing since their tournament’s creation. While the justification for this, along with favoring the men’s tournament in promotion efforts, could be that the women’s tournament does not bring in significant enough revenue, the NCAA has failed to disclose the revenue and cost of the women’s tournament, making it impossible to know how the women’s and men’s tournaments truly compare. 

Weight racks and swag bags are so clearly just the tip of the iceberg, and if Mark Emmert does uphold his promise, it will be (to say the least) interesting to see how an organization plagued with inequity stands up to an independent review of its processes.  

Kendall Foley

Conn Coll '24

Kendall Foley is a sophomore at Connecticut College majoring in Philosophy and pursuing a Pathway in Data, Information, and Society. At Conn, Kendall plays for the women's water polo team and is an intern in the Office of Student Accessibility Services. In her free time, you can find Kendall open-water swimming, baking, or spending time with her family.
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