March Madness Inequality

Written by: Justin

Edited by: Lucas

Visual by: Sarah Pr.

Issues of social injustice such as racial and gender discrimination have grabbed recent headlines in the US and around the world. In sports, gender equality has been a rallying cry for female athletes who have protested against lower tournament prize pools, less media attention, and lack of sponsorships, among others. The most recent manifestation of this continuing bias was seen in the NCAA’s March Madness weight room discrepancy. 

It came to light when Ali Kershner, one of Stanford’s coaches for women’s basketball posted a side by side comparison of the women’s weight room and the men’s weight room. The former was an empty room with one small weight rack and a few yoga mats, while the latter had rows upon rows of weight racks with a variety of different equipment.

The NCAA initially responded by waving the issue off citing lack of space as the excuse. However, Sedona Prince, a basketball player who plays for the Oregon Women’s Basketball team disproved this through her social media posting a video where she zoomed out from the one weight rack to reveal a giant empty gym which could obviously accommodate more training equipment. 

Differences in men's, women's weight rooms in NCAA bubble prompts questions  of inequity | CBC Sports
Photo via CBC

The video went viral on social media and evoked reactions from several NBA stars. Stephen Curry tweeted, “wow-come on now! @marchmadness @NCAA yall trippin trippin.” Kyrie Irving expressed similar sentiment when he posted, “Soooooo @ncaa this is how y’all are doing our Queens???!!! We can’t tolerate this! They deserve more!”

After receiving this backlash from the sporting community, NCAA’s Senior Vice President of Basketball Dan Gavitt issued a contrite statement saying, “I apologize to the women’s student-athletes, coaches and committee for dropping the ball on the weight room issue in San Antonio, we’ll get it fixed as soon as possible.” Soon after, the NCAA upgraded the women’s weight room by adding a variety of bars, weight racks, and stands. 

The NCAA March Madness is the most important tournament at the highest level of competition for college basketball. As such, it is the most watched college event in the world and is the breeding ground for many future professional basketball stars. It is quite unfortunate that this highly celebrated event was marred by gender inequality issues. However, the silver lining is that today’s female athletes and coaches are no longer afraid to speak out and use their platforms to bring about much needed change in the NCAA and the wider athletic community.