Madness in the NCAA tournament: Women athletes voice inequities

By Brynn Sherbert, March 30, 2021

On March 20, NCAA women’s basketball players and staff drew public attention to the wide disparities between the men’s and women’s basketball teams at the women’s March Madness basketball tournament in San Antonio.

The controversy began after Ali Kershner, Stanford University’s sports performance coach, shared images on social media comparing the men’s and women’s weight setups. The weight room for the women’s basketball teams consisted of a single stack of six pairs of dumbbells and a handful of yoga mats piled on a folding table. The men’s weight room, in comparison, resembles a gym fully equipped of weights and professional equipment.

CPP’s athletic community shared their opinions with The Poly Post on the two tournaments’ disparities.

Director of Intercollegiate Athletics Brian Swanson emphasized his disappointment with the gender inequality taking place at the NCAA tournament.

“I was completely shocked to see the disparity between the women’s and men’s teams at a national championship,” Swanson said. “The NCAA should not have let this happen and I am disappointed for the female athletes that had to go through this.”

CPP’s teams share a weight room and have equal amenities. Swanson oversees the budget between all the teams and confirmed they are distributed equally.

The differences in weight rooms between the men’s (top) and women’s (bottom) teams. (Courtesy of Ali Kershner)

The NCAA quickly pivoted and made changes to the women’s facilities by adding more equipment for the women players after the Instagram post went viral. Several sporting goods companies pledged to donate equipment to the women competing in San Antonio, including Dick’s Sporting Goods, Orangetheory and Tonal.

In 2019, the men’s tournament generated $917.8 million in revenue and the women’s tournament generated $15.1 million in revenue. Figures for the 2021 tournaments are expected to be relatively similar.

According to NCAA Title IX policies, it is required by law for student-athletes to receive equal treatment in equipment and supplies, publicity and promotions and training facilities regardless of gender or revenue generated.

NCAA Vice President Lynn Holzmann released a statement on March 20, regarding the differences between teams.

“We acknowledge that some of the amenities teams would typically have access to have not been as available inside the controlled environment,” NCAA VP Lynn Holzmann told the Washington Post in a statement. “In part, this is due to the limited space and the original plan was to expand the workout area once additional space was available later in the tournament.”

Ciara James, junior forward for CPP women’s basketball team, was irritated to see that the NCAA did not provide the same treatment to the women’s tournament as they did for the men.

“It did not surprise me to see the disparities between the women and men’s teams because it has been an ongoing trend that men get better treatment in sports over women,” James said. “It is disappointing to see female athletes and coaches fighting for women to have the same treatment as male athletes.”

Oregon Ducks redshirt sophomore forward Sedona Prince argued in a TikTok video that there was plenty of space available and showed vacant areas in the facility where equipment could be housed.

“If you’re not upset about this problem, then you’re a part of it,” Prince said in the video.

Standout player BJ Standley, senior guard for CPP men’s basketball team, advocates for equal treatment and opportunities for all student-athletes.

“Female athletes deserve every right to be given the same treatment as male athletes,” Stand-ley said. “Women work just as hard as men and they deserve to be given the same opportunities.”

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