Organisers of the hugely popular, and lucrative, March Madness US collegiate basketball tournament were under fire Friday for disparities in the facilities offered at the men’s and women’s events.
University of Oregon sophomore Sedona Prince launched the debate with a social media video of the “weight room” offered at the women’s tournament in San Antonio – showing a small rack of free weights with no benches or other amenities.
“Lemme show y’all the men’s weight room,” Prince said as her video cut to a well-equipped gym at the men’s tournament in Indiana.
Prince scoffed at the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s initial response that the difference was due to space constraints – offering video of the roomy, empty space available in San Antonio.
“If you aren’t upset about this problem, then you are a part of it,” added Prince, whose tweet garnered reaction around the basketball world, including from NBA star Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors who re-tweeted the video with the caption “wow come on now!”
Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving also called out the disparities on Instagram.
“Soooooo @ncaa This is how y’all are doing our Queens???!!!” Irving posted. “We can’t tolerate this! They deserve more!”
NCAA vice president for basketball Dan Gavitt apologised on Friday in a video conference with media, ESPN reported.
“We have intentionally organised basketball under one umbrella, with the goal of consistency and collaboration. When we fall short of these expectations, that’s on me,” Gavitt said.
“I apologize to women’s basketball student-athletes, to the coaches, to the women’s basketball committee for dropping the ball, frankly, on the weight room issue in San Antonio. We’ll get it fixed as soon as possible.”
But Dawn Staley, a three-time Olympic basketball gold medalist who now coaches the University of South Carolina women’s team, said the weight-room differences pointed out by Price are just the tip of the iceberg.
And she said the mindset “is not just contained to our championship. “It’s on our campuses. So this is nothing new.”
Staley noted other disparities, such as in the gifts tournament participants received and even in the Covid-19 tests being administered.
Geno Auriemma, coach of perennial women’s basketball powerhouse University of Connecticut, said this week that his players are being given daily rapid antigen tests, which are fast but less accurate than the PCR tests that are being administered to the men’s team.
On Twitter, Staley urged NCAA chief Mark Emmert and his team “to own this mistake.”
“It is sad that the NCAA is not willing to recognise and invest in our growth despite its claims of togetherness and equality,” Staley said in her post.
“We all came to San Antonio with one goal: it’s time for us to turn our attention to preparing our teams for that. But it is also time for the NCAA leadership to reevaluate the value they place on women.”