The final tournament time of the college basketball season, commonly known as March Madness, started off this year with a viral internet discussion of controversy after extreme differences between the Men’s and Women’s NCAA tournaments were made known to the public through social media.
The training facilities and equipment provided to the men and the women in the NCAA tournament were far from the same.
This was first made known when former Oregon Duck and current New York Liberty player, Sabrina Ionescu, shared on Twitter side-by-side photos from the different tournament weight rooms.
The photo from the men’s facilities in Indianapolis showed a full weight training facility covering a massive room while the photo from the women’s bubble in San Antonio showed a single dumbbell rack and a stack of yoga mats that were provided as a “training facility” for the women. This extreme inequity led to male and female athletes widely responding in outrage through social media.
Like many other sports have had to do in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the NCAA created a bubble system for their Men’s and Women’s basketball championship tournaments. Twitter users expressed outrage on the first day of the NCAA bubble system as male and female athletes began posting the differences in what was provided for the different bubbles.
“It’s unacceptable,” Chiney Ogwumike, professional basketball player for the Los Angeles Sparks, said in an interview with ESPN that she later posted to her Twitter account. “Women deserve better, period. And it’s women’s history month, it’s time for everyone to level up”.
Ogwumike’s opinion was echoed by a majority of the sports community on the first day of March Madness. Despite this public outrage, the NCAA wasn’t done applying unfair treatment between the different tournament bubbles.
Beyond the clear lack of fairness in equipment and facilities that exposed itself on the first day, discrepancies in even more essential areas began to come to light.
The Men’s and Women’s NCAA tournament bubbles had clear differences in terms of the food provided to the athletes and the medical testing provided to the athletes.
“In addition to complaints of subpar facilities, meals, and player gifts, college officials revealed that women’s players were being administered a different, less accurate daily coronavirus test than players in the men’s bubble.” reported by the Washington Post.
At this point it’s very clear that the bubble situations provided to the male and female basketball players of the NCAA were far from equal and it’s simply not right.
Thankfully in the social atmosphere we live in today, this unfairness is being exposed and hopefully this will lead to more equality in the future. However, this doesn’t change the damage that is already done.
The sad truth is that the inequity and inequality that was shown by the NCAA during March Madness is something female athletes have grown used to.
“Women’s sports put in the same amount of sacrifice, and same amount of effort” graduate student FSC basketball player Julia Jenike said. “it takes the same energy, same mental toll on you, just to be treated not as equal!”
The entire NCAA tournament controversy needs to be a reminder that people don’t deserve to be treated as less than others. It’s important that inequity and unfairness are faced head on wherever they are found.
That’s why it’s important to commend male athletes like Ja Morant and Kyrie Irving as well as groups like the NCAA Committee on Women’s Athletics, who immediately used their privilege and platforms to speak out against the NCAA bubble differences once the unfairness went viral.
In that same regard though, most people will argue that condemning inequality as it appears is not enough to fix the problem. There must be systematic review and true intentionality to bring about change for the better.
Hopefully the inequity of the NCAA bubbles serves as an agent for a deep level of change. Truthfully a step towards women’s equality in sports would serve as at least one step towards women’s equality in the world which are steps that society today needs to be taking more of.