Each year the NCAA hosts a college women’s basketball tournament featuring 64 teams who are competing to win a national title. Additionally, the men’s college basketball teams participate in March Madness, the name for the tournament. However, this year there was a major problem with the facilities – the women’s weight room.
University of Oregon player Sedona Price posted a TikTok video on March 18th comparing the men’s and women’s weight room. What was found in the video was shocking. The women’s side had only a handful of dumbbells and the men’s side exemplified a recreational facility. Once this video and other media images surfaced, the online response was overwhelming. Female athletes, in basketball and other sports, and fans began speaking up about it. Additionally, NBA basketball stars, like Steph Curry and Kyrie Irving, shared their thoughts about the unacceptable manner. Within a few days, there was a massive amount of attention on the NCAA tournament, and it wasn’t positive.
“If you’re not upset about this problem, then you are a part of it,” -Sedona Prince.
In a New York Times article, there was discussion about the fact that although the NCAA has faced a strain this year, they make ample money from the men’s tournament to support equal amenities for all the athletes. According to ABC News, one of the online statements made by the NCAA was from Lynn Holzman, the NCAA’s vice president of women’s basketball, saying, “We fell short this year in what we’ve been doing to prepare in the last 60 days for 64 for teams to be here in San Antonio, and we acknowledge that.” Later on, Senior Vice President of Basketball Dan Gavitt took responsibility for the weight room issue. “I apologize to women’s basketball student-athletes, to the coaches, Women’s Basketball Committee for dropping the ball, frankly, on the weight room issue in San Antonio,” Gavitt said during a press conference on March 19th. These apology statements were released but more needs to be done for accommodating the women’s weight room facility. As always, there are two sides to every story. The NCAA still has support or is rather giving flexibility to those who organized the tournament, due to the pandemic, saying that the organizers are working hard towards having equality and credibility on the women’s side.
With all of this information in mind, it is important to acknowledge that there have been improvements in women’s rights and equality. However, there are many inequalities still present not only in women’s basketball but other sports as well. One example is professional women’s ice hockey. One of my favorite female athletes is Kendall Coyne Schofield, who is a United States women’s national ice hockey team player, competing and winning gold medals for Team USA in the Olympics and her national team. She has been a commentator for the NHL San Jose Sharks team and recently was hired by the Chicago Blackhawks as a player development coach for the AHL affiliate team. Schofield used her voice and spoke out about the manner on Twitter tweeting, “This is embarrassing and all too familiar for women across sports.” I am a former ice hockey player myself and although there are opportunities today than ten, twenty, or fifty years ago there is still a lack of respect and equity for female athletes in ice hockey and sports like basketball.
Several WNBA athletes spoke up about the weight room. A’ja Wilson, a player for the Las Vegas Aces, tweeted, “The ncaa bubble weight room is beyond disrespectful.” Teammate Kelsey Plum tweeted, “We want some answers @NCAA who thought this was acceptable????” On a more positive note, Sabrina Ionescu, who is the Liberty point guard and a former Oregon player tweeted, “… To all the women playing in the @marchmadness tournament, keep grinding!” Seeing various female athletes speaking up, all with different respective sports or division levels, shows the impact moments like these have for all women.
It boils down to women not being viewed as equal to men. How long will it take everyone to realize women need to have equal opportunities just as men do? Women deserve the same rights and opportunities and that should be no different in terms of sports. I encourage you to take the time to acknowledge the female athletes around you. There is a need for conversations about this issue as well as what inequalities are present or may be happening to female athletes, at the collegiate and national levels. Use this opportunity to use your voice. Speak out and continuing supporting women.
With March being Women’s History Month, it’s unfortunate that equality for women is still a constant battle. This is something that won’t be forgotten. The women, supporting fans, basketball community, male athletes, and everyone who has been speaking out deserves all the credit. With the help and support of the online community, the women’s basketball teams were able to raise awareness of this problem, holding the NCAA accountable. A statement by Gavitt claims that “We will get it fixed as soon as possible.” On March 20th, new images were released for the updated workout space.
Keep using your voice. Keep supporting women. Keep holding those accountable for their actions.