Social media was set ablaze last weekend when women basketball players from college teams participating in the NCAA’s March Madness tournament broadcasted how different their amenities were from the men’s players.
Sedona Prince, a forward on the Oregon Ducks, took to social media to do what many of the male athletes participating in the tournament were doing, showing off rooms like the weight room but as the video spread across multiple social media platforms, it was obvious the women’s amenities were nothing like the men’s.
The “weight room” in question simply consisted of a rack of dumbbells and a couple of yoga mats. To put in context how outrageous that is, 64 women’s basketball teams were expected to share one set of weights and a couple of yoga mats during the first week of the tournament…during a global pandemic.
In comparison, the men’s weight room was fully stocked, wall to wall with enough equipment to be shared with the 68 teams that made it to the tournament. The equipment provided for the men’s teams included two bikes, a treadmill, and multiple weight sets among a plethora of other conditioning equipment. In addition, the men’s weight room appeared to meet social distance recommendations set by the CDC to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The difference in weight rooms was not the only disparities the women’s teams suffered through. Upon arriving at the tournament, each athlete was given a swag bag. In a tweet posted by social media user Dan Henry, the difference between the men’s and women’s swag bag was glaringly obvious.
The men’s bags included over 30 items including March Madness merch such as a hoodie, baseball hat, multiple pairs of socks, and a book written by John Thompson. The bags also included multiple person hygiene products like body wash, deodorant, lotion, and hand sanitizers. It should be noted almost all of the items given to the men participants donned the phrases “March Madness” or “The Big Dance.”
In comparison, the women received a swag bag with just 16 items. The items included a shirt, a face towel, a ponytail holder, and an umbrella. Strikingly, unlike the men’s items, none of the women’s gifts had the “March Madness” or “The Big Dance” phrases on them. They simply said “NCAA Women’s Basketball.”
From what I have been shown it appears the swag bags that the Men receive from the @NCAA are much more substantial than the Women as well. @ncaawbb @marchmadness. C’mon NCAA do better. Be better! pic.twitter.com/tDRjI9e5UJ
— Dan Henry (@danhenry3) March 18, 2021
The men received at least three of each personal hygiene product. It looks like the women just received one body wash, two deodorants, and one hand sanitizer.
When asked about the disparities between the men’s and women’s swag bags, NCAA’s Women’s Basketball Vice President Lynn Holzman, disparities in swag bags given to the men and women’s teams were simply due to the weather difference between Indianapolis and San Antonio. This makes zero sense because why does weather matter when the men received a puzzle with 500 hundred pieces and the women’s puzzle only had 150 pieces?
The weather does not determine how much body a player needs, nor does it negate the fact that men received multiple pairs of socks when the women only received one pair of socks Holzman stood firm on the NCAA stance by releasing a statement to explain the differences between the women’s and men’s facilities.
“We acknowledge that some of the amenities teams would typically have access to have not been as available inside the controlled environment,” Holzman said. “ 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.”
Players like Prince immediately called Holzman’s statement out as false. Prince took to social media once again to rebuke the NCAA for their blatant disrespect by posting a video of the “weight room” showing there was more than enough space to provide the women’s teams with a sufficient weight room.
The choice to not put in as much effort into the women’s tournament as the men’s is a decision the NCAA would later come to regret. As stars like Stephen Curry, who has always been outspoken of his support of women’s sports, clamored to call out the NCAA for the clear discrimination against women’s players, the NCAA changed their tune.
By the end of the first weekend of the tournament, the women were finally provided with an adequate weight room. The weight room and swag bag situations were not the only ways the women experienced subpar treatment compared to the men’s players. Because we are in the middle of a global pandemic, the players are constantly being tested.
The men are being tested using the standard PCR coronavirus test which is said to be one of the most accurate tests on the market while the women are being tested using a rapid antigen test. The rapid antigen test looks for a certain protein of the coronavirus. This option is known to be less accurate but cheaper.
Choosing to use a less effective and cheaper test on women players continues to send the message women players are not as valued by the NCAA. There’s really no debate against which test is better at giving accurate results when the PCR test is considered to be the most reliable test but NCAA president Mark Emmert insisted there was no significant difference between the two tests.
“I’m not a medical expert so I’m not going to get into a debate about PCR and antigen. All the health experts said the protocol that we’re using in all of our venues and all of our championships has no difference at all in terms of our ability to mitigate risk,” Emmert said.
It’s not lost on me the women players had to protest on social media to receive the same amenities men were given. The fact that it even had to come to that is a slap in the face to every woman player who puts her body on the line for an organization that makes millions off their labor.
Its well-known women’s college basketball does not bring in nearly as much revenue as the men’s side but that does not excuse the NCAA for blatantly choosing to provide the women with lesser amenities. The NCAA makes hundreds of millions off the likeliness of its players while ruling the players are not allowed to do the same and can more than afford to provide the same extravagant swag bags the men received to the women.
Over and over again, the lack of opportunities provided to women athletes is chucked up to the fact that men’s sports are more popular and bring in more money. Rarely is it brought up why that is. To be frank, women’s sports are constantly put down because society has told us year after year since the beginning of sports that women are subpar to men.
How are women’s sports ever supposed to reach the height that men’s sports reach when society constantly tells us women are not as entertaining or athletic as men. Women sports can only go as far as we allow it and when we constantly treat women like the sideshow and not the main act, what do we expect to happen?
Women’s sports will forever be stuck in the shadows if we continue to let organizations like the NCAA tell us women don’t deserve nice things because they don’t bring in as much money as men while not giving the same opportunities as men to prove themselves.
Robin Renay Bolton is a California State University, Dominguez Hills graduating senior. She is passionate about all things related to the Black experience in America. She enjoys covering social justice, pop culture, the beauty industry, and books.