athletes · equality · equipment · fitness · team sports · training

A small victory in a large battle: NCAA women’s basketball tiny weight room gets bigger

These days, news travels fast and turns on a dime. Here’s an important and fast-developing story of discriminatory treatment of women athletes, from yesterday to today:

The NCAA March Madness 2021 college basketball tournament is happening this year, inside bubbles in Indianapolis (for the men) and San Antonio (for the women). They are being housed and fed, and are training in facilities set up for them. The men’s and women’s training facilities are separate. But boy are they not equal. Check out this twitter comparison pic of their weight training facilities:

Split screen of NCAA men’s weight room, large and well-stocked, vs. women’s space, consisting of one small tower of little hand weights and a few yoga mats on a table.

Some twitter users were skeptical that this was true, while others chalked it up to their beliefs that men’s teams made money, performed better and were more popular, so it didn’t matter that the women had less to work with than most of us have in our homes.

In service of settling any peripheral disputes, here are some stills from the Tiktok video feed of Sedona Prince, Oregon Ducks team member on the scene.

Of course this really made the NCAA’s face red. However, they rallied and offered this explanation:

An NCAA spokesperson told The Washington Post that officials initially thought there was not enough square footage for a weight training facilities at the convention center playing host to the women’s tournament. They later found the space, the spokesperson said.

Yeah, that’s not true. How do I know this? Because of Sedona Prince, who on Friday (the same day this story was reported) posted this picture on TikTok:

A large, empty space for the women's basketball teams at the NCAA, with nothing in it but a few chairs.
A large, empty space for the women’s basketball teams at the NCAA, with nothing in it but a few chairs.

So either the NCAA people were lying or they hadn’t bothered to check whether what they were saying was true.

After a large outcry, mainly from women professional and college athletes and coaches, the NCAA apparently found some gym and weights set ups for the women’s teams. Sedona shows it to you live:

Turns out, lack of standard weight training facilities wasn’t the only way the NCAA treated women’s basketball teams less well than the men’s teams.

Geno Auriemma, coach of the Connecticut women’s team, told reporters at a news conference Friday that his team was receiving different daily coronavirus tests than men’s teams. The rapid antigen tests given to women are faster than PCR tests given to men but “have a higher chance of missing an active infection,” according to the Food and Drug Administration.

The NCAA is using a cheaper and less accurate COVID test for the women than it is for the men. Again, the NCAA responded:

In a statement, the NCAA said that its medical advisory group had determined that both tests were “were equally effective models for basketball championships”…

Hmmm. Here’s a question: if they’re equally effective, then why use one test for the men and another for the women? And if it’s an issue of supply, why didn’t you plan for that at the women’s location as well as you did for the men’s location?

Again, please refer to my earlier comment about the NCAA either lying or not caring whether what they say is true.

Other documented differences between how the men’s and women’s teams are treated includes the food served (Sedona documented an especially unfortunately Salisbury Steak event here), and skimpier swag bags for the women. Seriously, NCAA? You’re leaving no stone unturned in your quest to make 100% clear your lack of respect for women’s collegiate sports.

And then there are those who are listening and following the lead of the NCAA, turning its disdain for women’s teams into threats to shut down women’s sports altogether.

A tweet (unaltered) threatening that women's sports will be shut down if women don't stop complaining about their unequal treatment. This was one of many such tweets.
A tweet (unaltered) threatening that women’s sports will be shut down if women don’t stop complaining about their unequal treatment. This was one of many such tweets.

This tweet is revealing in that it’s a common and threatening reaction to women’s sports players, coaches and advocates’ calls for more equitable treatment, in accordance with Title IX legal requirements in the US. I’m happy to say that these threats haven’t gone answered.

Dawn Staley, a championship award-winning basketball player and coach, former Olympian and current Women’s Basketball Hall of Famer, said this (I’m including the whole statement here):

Statement by Dawn Staley. See links below for text.

You can read a Sports Illustrated article about her statements and a letter from the NCAA Committee on Women’s Athletics here and here. They’re not playing about the barriers to playing that women and girl athletes face all day, every day. Hey, NCAA president Mark Emmert– you can throw some jump ropes, treadmills and weight bench sets at the problem, and say things like “we fell short” (ya think?), but you’re not getting out of it that easily.

I’m happy that Sedona Prince, her teammates, and all the women’s NCAA basketball teams now have an actual weight room for training. And yes, it would be nice for them to get buffet meals rather than prepackaged ones (the NCAA says they’re working on it). But it’s clear that the battle for respect and equity in women’s athletics is still in its early stages.

Thank you, Sedona Prince. Thank you, Dawn Staley. Thank you, players and coaches of women’s and girls’ athletics everywhere for standing up and speaking out.

But, wouldn’t it have been nice if men’s basketball coaches, players, team owners, and athletic directors spoke up and spoke loudly in support of women’s athletics now? Nets guard Kyrie Irving and Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry both posted criticism of the NCAA, and both got the same scornful, dismissive pushback. But there’s strength in numbers.

Hey male players, coaches, trainers, administrators, athletic directors– where are your voices? I can’t hear you…

Readers, if you’ve seen any recent tweets or other social media posts by male sports figures (players, coaches, business, academic, children’s leagues, anything) in support of women’s sports on the occasion of this latest discriminatory debacle, post them in the comments. It’s good to know who’s on the ball and who’s dropped it. Any other thoughts or ideas you want to share? I’m listening.

3 thoughts on “A small victory in a large battle: NCAA women’s basketball tiny weight room gets bigger

  1. I attend my academic society’s conference every year. The little gyms provided for guests in our hotels are better equipped than the women’s “weight room” in those photographs.
    When I was a college freshman, I enrolled in a physical education theory class, where some of my male classmates were of the opinion that women should only get to use the gym when no men wanted to, and that they should be grateful for that much. (One of those morons actually yelled, “women’s place is in the home!” and our teacher, a man, just accepted all of it.) Guess maybe some of these guys “grew up” to become NCAA administrators.
    Some people need to be fired.

    Liked by 2 people

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