Players and coaches from several women’s college basketball teams put the NCAA on blast Thursday for providing dramatically disparate weight room facilities for men and women competing in the March Madness tournament.
Photos posted on social media show a well-equipped weight room for men in Indiana, compared with a meager offering of dumbbells for women in Texas.
Ali Kershner, Stanford’s sports performance coach, posted a photo comparison of the two facilities and called on the NCAA and March Madness to address it.
“These women want and deserve to be given the same opportunities,” Kershner wrote. “In a year defined by a fight for equality this is a chance to have a conversation and get better.”
Kershner said the heaviest weights available for women were 30 pounds. Zack Zillner, University of Texas’ sports performance coach for women’s basketball, said women had access to just one array of dumbells and one stationary bike. The photo also shows a pile of yoga mats for women.
Other posts circulated online accused the NCAA of providing lower quality food and merchandise contained in swag bags to women, compared to what male players get.
What’s more, University of Connecticut women’s coach Geno Auriemma told reporters that the women’s teams were getting daily antigen tests for coronavirus, while the men’s teams were getting PCR tests, which are far more reliable. An NCAA spokesperson told HuffPost that the organization’s medical advisory group said daily PCR or antigen tests were “equally effective” and both men’s and women’s teams had a “protocol” of testing daily for seven days, including one PCR test, prior to arrival.
The NCAA addressed the broader issue of unequal amenities in a statement that did not contest the accusations that women and men were offered different facilities. It cited “limited space” to explain the women’s facility.
“We acknowledge that some of the amenities teams would typically have access to have not been in place as available inside the controlled environment,” Lynn Holzman, NCAA vice president of women’s basketball, said in the 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.”
Holzman said the league was “actively working” to enhance the resources, including additional weight training equipment.
Oregon Ducks player 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.
Critics, including a number of WNBA players, said the NCAA statement was not enough. Under Title IX, female and male student athletes are required by law to be provided equitable opportunities to participate in sports. This includes equal provisions of equipment, facilities, training, dining facilities and other services.
This is stated on NCAA’s website. The organization did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment.
Due to the pandemic, March Madness players, coaches and officials are staying in a “controlled environment” akin to a bubble for three weeks to mitigate COVID-19 risks. The entire men’s competition is taking place in Indianapolis, and all women’s games will be held in San Antonio.
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