The NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) helps supply student athletes with appropriate resources to help them thrive during their college careers and better prepare them for time in professional leagues. The organization is most notably recognized for March Madness: a basketball tournament where over 60 male and female teams compete for the championship title in their respective divisions.
Normally held in the Spring, the tournament spans throughout all of March and ends with the Final Four game in early April. Just like the National Basketball Association had for the 2020 playoffs, the competing March Madness teams are to stay in a bubble to minimize traveling and the potential spread of coronavirus (which has already cost some teams their shot at winning the title after having to forfeit if they were struck with a case). With the women’s bubble in Texas and men’s in Indiana, it was no surprise when people came to find out that the bubbles weren’t identical.
Oregon University’s Sedona Prince took to TikTok to call out the NCAA’s weight room in regards to how visibly deficient the women’s was to that of the men’s. The video clip with over 7 million views and 2 million likes (and over 16 million views on Twitter) starts with Prince showing the women’s “weight room”: a single, small rack of dumbbells in the corner of a room with a few yoga mats, in comparison to the men’s which is a full room of dumbbells and racks, among other equipment. Prince goes on to show “extra space” where a possible weight room can be expanded after noting that the NCAA said space was an issue for the difference in weight rooms, and not money. She captioned the post “it’s 2021 and we are still fighting for bits and pieces of equality” along with hashtags of “ncaa”, “equality”, and “fightforchange”.
With the natural rigor of March Madness and this year’s secluded
bubble environment, it’s essential that the NCAA provides adequate facilities and going along with this, for the players to train extensively. After Prince’s post, the internet absolutely broke at the evident sexism of the NCAA, calling them out on the disparity and pleading for a new weight room.
In the midst of the heated controversy, athletes like former Oregon University player, Sabrina Ionescu, and NBA players like Kyrie Irving, Steph Curry, Ben Simmons, Paul George, etc. all voiced their disappointment with the NCAA. Others have pointed out other discrepancies like the food and welcome gifts between that of the men and women.
ESPNw’s Chiney Oqwumike commented, “...we [female athletes] are not only conditioned to expect less, we are also told to appreciate what we’re given...we get the economic realities of the women’s game, but those realities should never stoop to the level where there’s a weight room for all of the tournament teams that only has a couple dumbbells and some yoga mats...how is this system that is profiting off of this grand stage-the system that’s supposed to support these athletes-how are they reinforcing negative gender stereotypes like that? It’s unacceptable.”
To make matters worse, the entire controversy broke during Women’s History Month, only digging a deeper hole for the NCAA and all those responsible for the difference in weight rooms.
Following the backlash, the NCAA issued a statement apologizing for the issue and nearly overnight, turned around with an upgraded weight room for the women; one that is now equipped with athletic bands, medicine balls, biking machines, treadmills, racks and of course, more dumbbells. Prince showed off the improvement in a follow-up TikTok, giving a tour of the new weight room and celebrating with teammates, along with thanking the NCAA and supporters who made the change possible. Through social media, Prince was able to bring awareness to something that, unlike the weight rooms, won’t change overnight, and while this scandal ended with a win, it’ll take more brave people like her for women to truly be on the same playing field as men in the sports world.