The NCAA women’s basketball March Madness Tournament came to a close Sunday but events during the tournament opened the public’s eyes to the unequal treatment of the women athletes compared to their male counterparts.
Both the men’s and women’s tournaments were identical in terms of time frame and format. However, the key difference is the amount of money invested into each group by the NCAA.
Sedona Prince, a player for the University of Oregon women’s team, brought attention to the issue through social media, in which she revealed that the women’s weight room consisted of merely a few racks of light weights and yoga mats. On the other hand, the men’s weight room had a wide array of benches, racks, dumbbells, barbells and other workout equipment. Prince showed the huge disparity between the two weight rooms and left it to public discourse, and soon that public pressure forced the NCAA to address this issue.
Prince’s videos opened up a Pandora’s box, as even more disparities between the men’s and women’s tournaments were revealed by other athletes on social media. The women athletes received boxed meals and smaller gifts of free tournament gear, while the men received buffets consisting of steak, lobster and mac ‘n’ cheese, as well as significantly more free gear, according to NPR.
This treatment disparity in men’s and women’s sports in the NCAA is nothing new either. For the 2018-2019 season, the NCAA allocated $28 million for the Division I men’s basketball tournament, compared to the $14.5 million allocated to the women’s tournament, according to CNN.
Not only are the actions of the NCAA morally reprehensible, but also illegal according to federal law.
According to the NCAA, federal Title IX regulations require, “…the equal treatment of female and male student-athletes in the provisions of: (a) equipment and supplies; (b) scheduling of games and practice times; (c) travel and daily allowance/per diem; (d) access to tutoring; (e) coaching, (f) locker rooms, practice and competitive facilities; (g) medical and training facilities and services; (h) housing and dining facilities and services; (i) publicity and promotions; (j) support services and (k) recruitment of student-athletes.”
By the letter of the law it seems evidently clear that NCAA violated Title IX with their treatment of these athletes in the women’s tournament. The thing that is most disappointing and head scratching in this situation is how blatantly obvious the mistreatment was, and how easy it would have been to avoid this problem by giving both the men’s and women’s tournaments the same quality of amenities.
The weight room and food situations were eventually alleviated by the NCAA, but this should not distract from the fact that the situation should not have occurred in the first place. There has to be a huge change in the way that women’s athletics are thought of and funded by the NCAA.
The demand for change cannot and should not end with just the March Madness Tournament. The NCAA should reassess their current treatment and funding of all women’s athletics across all sports.