March Madness creates a lot of buzz around the talented schools competing for the championship title. The tournament is known for its infamous brackets that fans fill out for prizes, even inspiring other brackets like the best frat or cutest dog. However, the big NCAA tournament is not known for equality.
During each round of the tournament, players were kept in a “bubble” environment amid the pandemic. Men and women alike stuck inside hotels with expectations of D1 accommodations. That was the case for the men at least.
It was not until TikToker and Oregon Women’s basketball player Sedona Prince showed the unfair conditions of the women’s accommodations by the NCAA when the world saw the inequalities in women’s sports.
The telling TikTok was a video comparing the weight room provided by the NCAA coordinators of the tournament of the men’s versus the women’s.
For the men, they received a full-blown weight room with free weights galore. But for the women, they got some yoga mats and the tiniest rack of weights you’ve ever seen, similar to the ones in Calder Commons.
Another player, Sabrina Ionescu, former Duck as well and 2020 Women’s National Basketball League number one pick, shared a photo of the drastically different weight rooms on Twitter.
The NCAA came out with a statement that the differences in weight rooms were a result of lack of space, not money. Prince revealed that to be untrue.
There were also disparities in the “swag bags” the women received compared to what the men got. The difference in treatment caught the attention of Kyrie Irving from the Brooklyn Nets.
While TikTok attracted attention from mainstream media, showcasing the issue on platforms like CNN and ESPN, the NCAA eventually unveiled an equal-sized weight room as the men got initially. However, the damage was already done and this incident brought more awareness to the inequality within sports.
Women’s voices get silenced in everyday settings. Meetings, workplaces and now, in competitive sports. By showcasing the unfair treatment of the women’s teams against the men’s teams, there was actually more uncovered.
Underneath surface layer inequalities like the gear and equipment provided to players, the COVID-19 tests were different as well. In a New York Times article, it was revealed that the NCAA tournament was giving women the cheaper rapid antigen test and gave the men the “gold standard” polymerase chain reaction test.
It was revealed that the women’s tournament brings in a lot less in revenue than the gloried men’s tournament does. This fact brings up another point of showing how much more work and attention goes into men’s sports than it does women’s.
What does March Madness have to do with promoting changes in inequalities?
When it is a matter of giving men and women equal opportunity and treating champions the same, there is clearly still work to be done especially within sports.
While women like Prince and Ionescu got the strength to stand up for themselves, some others do not. The NCAA has since apologized for the mistreatment of the women playing in the tournament. However, in the world of sports, women are far away from being considered equal to men.
Especially in today’s climate with the movement showcasing the increasing prevalence of sexual violence against women, it is so important to amp up women’s voices. While the incident with the March Madness tournament was “harmless” to a degree, the principle stands.
When women come together to voice their concerns and observations of inequality, change can be made.