Disappointed, but not surprised.
by Taylor Mascetta
Well, this is madness. And not because it’s March.
As a female student-athlete, I’ve always seen double standards between men’s and women’s sports. In most cases, male athletes always seem to garner more attention and clout, while female athletes get pushed to the side. While this isn’t necessarily male athletes’ fault, I just wish that female athletes got more attention on a national scale. Nothing frustrates me more than seeing how much coverage men’s sports get compared to women’s; just scroll through Sportscenter’s or Barstool Sports’ Instagrams. 99% of their posts recap men’s games and achievements, with no coverage over female athletes in sight.
The NCAA reaffirmed many of these frustrations just as March Madness made its highly-anticipated return after its cancellation due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. For this year’s competition, the NCAA stationed the men’s teams throughout Indianapolis, Indiana, and the women’s teams are staying in San Antonio, Texas, to lessen the risk of a COVID-19 outbreak. The games have gotten off to a good start (the suggestively-named Oral Roberts taking down top-seeded Ohio State and demolishing everyone’s brackets is for sure a highlight), but discrepancies between the NCAA’s treatment of male and female athletes already overshadows the game.
On Thursday, March 19, Stanford University’s sports performance coach, Ali Kershner, posted a photo that sent the entire athletics world into an uproar. The picture compared the men’s and women’s weight room set-ups inside their respective hotels. The NCAA went all out for the men’s teams, providing them with an enormous makeshift gym with power racks and Olympic bars and weights. And what did the women get? A single rack of dumbbells, along with a few sanitized yoga mats. It may be the most pathetic thing I’ve ever seen.
Sedona Prince, a forward for the University of Oregon’s women’s basketball team, posted a TikTok soon after her team’s arrival in San Antonio to explain the situation firsthand. “So for the NCAA March Madness, the biggest tournament for women’s college basketball, this is our weight room.” She said, before pointing to the sad little weight rack. “Now when pictures of our weight room got released vs. the men’s, the NCAA came out with a statement saying that it wasn’t money, but that space was the problem.” She then allowed the camera to pan out, revealing wide, empty practice courts with more than enough room to set up a better weight-lifting area.
I just… seriously? What was the NCAA thinking? Here you have some of the best athletes – not just among females, but in the entire collegiate sports scene – about to compete for the glory of a national title. The best weight room setup you could give them was a single rack of dumbbells that barely exceed 30 pounds? Female athletes can lift a hell of a lot more than that. The lack of a sufficient weight room also puts the women’s teams at a disadvantage, as they can’t prepare properly before their next game. And don’t even get me started on risks concerning COVID-19. Is having about 64 teams sharing a singular weight rack really the best idea in the midst of a global pandemic?
If you thought that the weight rack was bad, there’s more. The female player’s swag bags, provided by the NCAA, consisted of a single t-shirt, one pair of socks, two water bottles, a small puzzle, and a towel emblazoned with “Women’s Basketball.” Meanwhile, the men’s teams received multiple t-shirts, books, socks, hats, towels, and more, all labeled with “The Big Dance.” Also, if you thought Fordham’s quarantine food looked bad, just wait and see what the women’s dinner options consist of. The menu ranges from mystery meat and soggy vegetables while the men’s teams enjoy a massive buffet of seafood, mac and cheese, fresh steak, and more every night. Nice to see where the priorities lie.
The NCAA apologized and sent better equipment down to San Antonio by the weekend, but the damage had already been done. Seeing this entire situation unfold, honestly, makes me feel like shit. Society considers women in sports as weak and unentertaining, yet the male and female teams play the exact same game. I’m tired of seeing men in online comment sections defend this mistreatment and say women’s sports don’t bring in as much hype or revenue. If the powers-at-be made an effort to incorporate women’s sports into the mainstream media, viewership and general interest inevitably appears.
I hope that the NCAA’s blunder, which never should have happened in the first place, brings about substantial change for the treatment of female athletes in America. We deserve to be heard and seen as hard-working, legitimate competitors. That’s what we are, after all.