When the women of the NCAA Division 1 Basketball Tournament arrived in San Antonio, larger issues than losing a game surfaced. As they walked into the weight room of the March Madness bubble, a stack of six weights and a table of piled “sanitized” yoga mats welcomed them—not enough equipment for one athlete, let alone numerous college basketball players. The embarrassing lack of respect for female athletes when compared with men highlights the inequalities perpetuated by the NCAA against women’s sports.
On social media, multiple female NCAA basketball players publicized the gender gap of the weight rooms. Sedona Prince, an Oregon Ducks player, posted a TikTok video on March 18th, 2021, highlighting the disparity. The video transitioned from the near-empty women’s weight room to what looked like a professional gym for men’s NCAA basketball players. Ali Kershner, the performance enhancement coach for the women’s Stanford team, tweeted a photo comparing each weight room. The men’s room, open and spacious, included multiple rows of weights and benches. Clearly, the NCAA has little respect for their female basketball teams.
The NCAA perpetuates a system in which female athletes are not taken seriously. The NCAA tried to excuse their actions, first apologizing, then blaming the “controlled environment” of their smaller COVID bubble in San Antonio. Later, Prince disproved this claim when she shared a video of the spacious empty bubble that had plenty of room for more equipment. Even if there was not enough space, the women’s bubble should not have been smaller than the men’s in the first place. After Prince’s and Kershner’s posts went viral, companies such as Dick’s and Tonal Sporting Goods offered to provide equipment to cover the NCAA’s blunder.
While the gender gap between the weight rooms was apparent, it was not the only instance of inequality that occurred during the tournament. The women also battled it during mealtime and during COVID testing, showcasing the NCAA’s blatant favoritism towards male sports. At this year’s March Madness tournament, women were given pre-packaged meals, while men were given a buffet. Women received antigen tests, a cheaper and faster option for COVID-19 testing, which jeopardized their safety. Yet, the men used PCR tests, a more expensive and reliable form. In fact, the whole women’s March Madness tournament could have possibly ended due to the poor form of testing. In addition to these less reliable COVID tests and insufficient meals, men’s teams were given photographers for all seven rounds, and women’s teams did not get a single photographer for the first two rounds of the tournament. By not equally representing women’s sports, the NCAA contributes to a system that demeans female athletes. Media such as photographers and broadcasters play a vital role in generating exposure for the NCAA and its players, allowing the public to see the talents and skills of female athletes. After years of hard work to get to where these women are today, the NCAA won’t even photograph their games; a clear lack of respect.
Women’s sports have always been overlooked by men’s sports. Muffet McGraw, who used to coach for the women’s basketball team at the University of Notre Dame tweeted, “The fact that there’s a huge disparity between men and women sports is hardly breaking news. We have been fighting this battle for years.” While that can’t change overnight, the opportunities that are given to women for athletics compared to men should be equal. The events in the San Antonio bubble and the Indianapolis bubble are proof that women are given fewer resources. Female college athletes’ experiences with sexism in the weight room allow the public to see the gender gap in women’s athletics. Thanks to Prince’s video and Kershner’s tweet, the public was made aware of how drastically the NCAA needed to change the way in which it treated women’s sports.