After being called out for separate and unequal facilities between men and women’s basketball teams during the March Madness tournament, the NCAA revealed a new workout space for women’s teams over the weekend.
While the NCAA tried to claim it planned to upgrade the women’s facilities once “additional space” was available, the evidence gathered over the last few days pointed to a darker reality.
In a statement, NCAA Women’s Basketball Vice President Lynn Holzman said the NCAA would enhance amenities at the practice courts, including the weight training equipment.
However, on Sunday which marked the first day of the women’s tournament, more issues remained. Even down to the courts and branding, the women’s teams continued to get the short end of the stick.
Pressure began to mount last week after Ali Kershner, a sports performance coach at Stanford, posted a picture online comparing the men’s and women’s workout rooms. The pictures showed a small stack of dumbbells and yoga mats.
University of Oregon player Sedona Prince made a TikTok video of the men’s and women’s workout spaces. Prince refuted the NCAA’s claim that the issue was one of space.
In the video, Prince highlighted the room available for a real workout space despite NCAA leadership saying the original issue due to space.
Some players pointed to the limited practice space, subpar food options, and swag as another problem. Various brands have also responded with a vow to send equipment immediately to the women’s teams.
South Carolina coach Dawn Staley challenged the NCAA to do better, pointing to the official NCAA twitter handle’s erasure of the women’s tournament.
“What we now know is the NCAA’s season long message about ‘togetherness’ and ‘equality’ was about convenience and a soundbite for the moment created after the murder of George Floyd,” wrote Staley. “Women’s basketball is a popular sport whose stock and presence continues to rise on a global level. It is sad that the NCAA is not willing to recognize and invest in our growth despite its claims of togetherness and equality.”
Professional basketball players like Brianna Turner and Steph Curry also amplified the players’ concerns.
A forward for the WNBA Phoenix Mercury, Turner also called out the faux outrage over women sports with participation of trans women and girls. Anti-trans women and girls sports bills have been making the rounds through state legislatures across the country. In response to the silence around inequity in women’s sports, Turner said the silence on a real threat to women’s sports was telling.
Recently, over 500 NCAA athletes demanded the NCAA stop hosting championships and events in states that have passed or consider passing such laws.
The issue of equity in women’s sports extends far beyond this one tournament. CNBC also reported that women athletes at Clemson University were considering filing a class action lawsuit if they did not receive a more fair distribution of financial aid.
The tournament disparity also raised a conversation about Title IX protections for women’s athletes. While the NCAA is bound by Title IX, individual schools arguably have a duty to ensuring women athletes are treated fairly.