In case you have been living under a rock, you are fully aware that the NCAA has been in the media for screwing up, once again. Stop me if you’ve heard that before.
This time, they are under scrutiny for a considerable lack of gender equality in the men’s and women’s tournaments, respectively. And as usual, the NCAA has made a completely avoidable mistake.
Fair or not, the men’s tournament is going to be a more significant event. If there are women’s tournament brackets out there, please let me know. I wouldn’t mind filling one out. Unfortunately, the men’s tournament generates more money through sponsorships, media rights deals, and the like. If a ladder company is sponsoring the cutting down of the nets in the Final Four, it’s hard to compete with that when it comes to money. HOWEVER, just because the hype and attention are unequal does not mean that things should be unequal for student-athletes from an amenities standpoint, especially from the NCAA.
Let’s examine the facts from some videos and stories that have surfaced over the past week.
The video that got the ball rolling by Sedona Prince. First of all, any woman who was an athlete knows that the low-weight dumbells are an insult. All women who are college athletes can squat and deadlift more than I can with no issue. College weight lifting programs are infinitely more advanced than the handful of dumbells laid out here, and there is no excuse for the NCAA not to know (they likely do) and provide that (they probably didn’t want to). As the video illustrates, the lack of space excuse was a complete joke and is insulting to the athlete’s intelligence. And let’s not get started on the three yoga mats because clearly, women’s exercise is only limited to yoga, right? For fun, let’s see anyone in the NCAA brass try to do a women’s college basketball weight-lifting program this offseason.
Food and Mental Health
Jill Townsend brought it today in media availability.— Brenna Greene (@BrennaGreene_) March 19, 2021
"We deserve our health and mental health to be taken as seriously as the men." pic.twitter.com/q0fJnT7Gbr
This isn’t even counting the swag-bags the men received. Those likely come from sponsorships, and likely aren’t even enjoyed by the men’s teams, but that’s much easier to say when they have them, and the women don’t. Regardless, the real issue here is the disparity in meals, which affects physical and mental health. In order for athletes to be at their peak, proper nutrition is vital. Also, Jill makes a fantastic point about the mental health impacts of not being able to go outside other than to walk to get tested, while the men have a space to do outdoor activities. While the NCAA can’t help facility amenities in San Antonio, they can arrange additional resources to combat that.
This one may not be the most obvious when it comes to gender inequality, but it is the most concerning and perhaps the most obvious in these pandemic times. UConn coach Geno Auriemma said the women’s team gets daily antigen tests while the men’s team receives a daily PCR test. While NCAA Mark Emmert says there is no risk difference between the two, it still raises a lot of questions about why there has to be a difference at all. While the antigen tests yield faster results, they aren’t as accurate as the much-preferred PCR tests, which still deliver 24-hour results and detect the virus sooner. It would make sense that the cost of tests is the driving factor. If that’s the case, the message that is being sent is that players’ safety is not worth the same, and that is a disaster scenario for the NCAA.
After all of this was made public on social media, the NCAA “acknowledged the disparity,” which is a very nice way of saying “we know what we did” without apologizing or changing anything. Posting a picture of improved weight room conditions as if they are the heroes may look great, except for the fact that they were the original villains. People love to celebrate the person who rescues everyone from a burning building, but not when they were the ones who set the building on fire in the first place.
Once again, the NCAA took the easy way out, and now they are paying for it. They have more than enough recourses to give equal food and workout equipment to both men and women. More concerning, how differences in testing were ever allowed or approved comes across as a group of people who are either unqualified or menacing making the decisions.
This is the social media age and the age where student-athletes are not afraid to speak out against inequality. Good on Sedona, Jill, and every other woman for taking this cause to social media to advocate for herself and every other woman competing in this tournament. Bad on the NCAA for making this is an issue, to begin with.
Two things can be true here. 1) It should be celebrated that awareness was brought to this, and people have stepped up to improve the conditions at the Women’s NCAA tournament in San Antonio. 2) The NCAA should not be let off the hook, and people of influence should be up in arms from now until the next tournament when equal preparation and playing conditions are detailed out in contracts.