March Madness Inequality
Elise Hamersley, Online Sport Editor, discusses the disparity in provisions at the NCAA’s 2021 March Madness tournament
There’s more than one type of madness unfolding at this year’s NCAA college basketball tournament. Women’s teams from all over the USA descended on Texas last Thursday and quickly complained about the gym equipment provided.
Both the men’s and women’s categories are fielding 64 teams each. Due to coronavirus restrictions, a controlled environment for living, training and playing, similar to that instituted across many sports tournaments this year, has been created for March Madness. While the men’s tournament is taking place in Indianapolis (Indiana), compared to San Antonio (Texas) for the women, this did not stop female players from raising awareness of the disparity between the amenities provided.
The social media storm started after Stanford Sports Performance Coach, Ali Kershner posted this image on instagram featuring the men’s fully kitted out gym space compared to the small rack of dumbbells and sanitised yoga mats provided for the women:
These provisions are, quite frankly, appalling and it is almost inconceivable that in 2021 women in sport are still having to battle against this kind of disparity. While all March Madness games, including the women’s, will be available to watch on ESPN, this event reminds us that inequality in sport does not just manifest through media coverage, sponsorship and pay. The amenities provided behind the scenes for these athletes make a statement about the value of women’s sport and are linked to the perceived importance of their performance compared to the men.
Big names in the WNBA and former college basketball players tweeted support to the women speaking out on social media.
“That NCAA bubble weight room is beyond disrespectful”Tweet from A’ja Wilson, WNBA and former University of South Carolina player
The University of Oregon’s Sedona Price posted this Tiktok pushing back against the inadequate statement from Lynn Holzman, NCAA VP of Women’s Basketball, who said that the poor amenities were “due to limited space” and not funding.
And it isn’t just the weight room providing new elements of madness to this year’s tournament, the notorious “swag bags” provided to the players have substantial differences also:
The unspoken message behind this inequity is that the NCAA consider men and women to have different importance in the maintenance of their wellbeing and performance. It is laughable that the organisers thought this was acceptable and speaks volumes about the way they view female fitness and strength. In case it wasn’t already obvious: female athletes need more than some 8kg dumbbells and a mat to maintain an elite physique. Men and women deserve the same opportunities to progress in sport on all levels.