By Alina Issakhanian
Over the past few weeks, female college basketball players have revealed the unequal treatment they receive in comparison to their male counterparts by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). Players pointed to differences in weight rooms, food, and merchandise they received depending on gender.
One of the players on the Oregon Ducks women’s basketball team, Sedona Prince, gained national attention when she called out the NCAA with a video on social media. In this video, she showed the differences between the workout equipment for the women’s and men’s teams. The video showed a single stack of six pairs of weights and a handful of yoga mats piled on a folding table in comparison to the professional weight room for the men’s team that had an abundance of high-grade equipment.
In response to the backlash, the NCAA offered a statement blaming the “controlled environment” of the pandemic and the lack of space. Prince immediately debunked this in her video that showed the vast open space where equipment could have been placed.
While the weight room video began to raise issues, more issues of unequal treatment began to hit the spotlight as well. The men’s team received better treatment when it came to food, COVID-19 tests, and “swag bags.” The men’s team even had a more impressive media team. Everything from the simple necessities like meals to the more important things like COVID-19 tests were split unequally among the teams.
The men’s team received a full buffet in contrast to the pre-packaged meals the female team members received. The men’s team received gold-standard polymerase chain reaction (PCR) COVID-19 tests while the female team received the less reliable antigen test.
This all led to female athletes, coaches, and the general publicly highlighting the disparities in treatment and respect between female and male sports.
Georgia Institute of Technology coach Nell Fortner wrote in a social media post, “Thank you for showing off the disparities between the men’s and women’s tournament that are on full display in San Antonio, from COVID testing, to lack of weight training facilities, to game floors that hardly tell anyone that it’s the NCAA Tournament and many more. But these disparities are just a snapshot of larger, more pervasive issues when it comes to women’s sports and the NCAA. Shipping in a few racks of weights, after the fact, is not an answer. It’s a band-aid and an afterthought…For too long, women’s basketball has accepted an attitude and treatment from the NCAA that has been substandard in its championships. It’s time for this to stop.”
While Title IX offers protections meant to shield student-athletes from unequal treatment, the mandate does not apply to the NCAA. Title IX, as it applies to athletics, means that both male and female athletes have the right to equal opportunities, equipment, etc. in sports. As a nonprofit organization that does not receive federal funding, however, the NCAA is not required to abide by Title IX rules, while it’s associated colleges and universities do.
However, the NCAA has publicly stated that it will commit to voluntarily complying with the mandates presented by Title IX, even though it is not legally required to.
Now, the NCAA writes on its website that it strives to establish “an environment that is free of gender bias.” Although, the NCAA initially strongly resisted Title IX, lobbying hard to restrict its application to college athletics.
Many of the NCAA’s arguments are that female sports do not bring in as much revenue.
“The NCAA also has failed to disclose what the revenues and costs are for the women’s tournament, let alone how they measure up against the men’s. Even if the numbers showed that the NCAA cannot economically justify the same level of bonuses for the women’s tournament, it has never provided a good-faith reason it could not reward wins in a more limited fashion,” attorney Gabriella Levine said in an NBC News article.
Many now argue, especially after Prince’s viral video, that It is clear that the NCAA does not equally support female sports the same as they support male sports.
Female athletes rarely get the respect they deserve. The NCAA is just one part of it, but female athletes have been held back from success in the world of sports for a long time now.
According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, women make up 40 percent of all participants in sports yet only receive 4 percent of sports media coverage.
This can clearly be seen in the shortage of media staff during the NCAA women’s tournaments in comparison to the men’s. In fact, the NCAA, in an effort to cut costs, opted not to staff the women’s tournament with any photographers for the first two rounds yet gathered enough to publish thousands of photos of the male tournament’s opening games.
With this lack of coverage in women’s sports, girls grow up without enough female athlete role models and are even dropping out of sports at two times the rate of boys for this exact reason along with underfunded and under-promoted programs, according to the Women’s Sports Foundation.
This issue may have come to light for some with the recent news surrounding the NCAA but it has been prevalent for years despite the fact that women in sports both deserve and have always deserved our utmost appreciation and respect.