NCAA Tournament Inequities Basketball

FILE - In this March 14, 2012, file photo, a player runs across the NCAA logo during practice in Pittsburgh before an NCAA tournament college basketball game. NCAA basketball administrators apologized to the women’s basketball players and coaches after inequities between the men’s and women’s tournament went viral on social media. Administrators vowed to do better. NCAA Senior Vice President of Basketball Dan Gavitt spoke on a zoom call Friday, March 19, 2021, a day after photos showed the difference between the weight rooms at the two tournaments. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic, File)

In holding two basketball tournaments in a bubble during a pandemic, the NCAA made a choice, then another one, then another one and then another one.

And somehow, every single choice it made was wrong, somehow every single choice was sexist, every single choice showed the NCAA doesn’t care about women’s basketball and every single choice demonstrated it has no desire for equality.

The NCAA first came under fire when Ali Kershner, the performance coach at Stanford, shared an Instagram post highlighting the discrepancies in the weight rooms between the men’s and women’s tournament.

Frankly, calling 12 dumbbells and some workout mats present in San Antonio for the women’s tournament a “weight room” is incredibly kind.

Then a tweet from Oregon’s Sedona Prince went viral.

What makes this even worse was the NCAA was prepared to offer a weight room to teams that made the Sweet 16. The organization had the resources to provide a weight room for the whole tournament, for all 64 teams, and it chose not to.

But it didn’t stop there.

Images came rolling in from social media comparing the food in the two bubbles — one had a steak buffet, the other was mystery meat in a box.

The gift bags for the women were about a third of the size of the men’s and had no branded March Madness or NCAA Tournament items in them.

In fact, not even the courts say March Madness, and according to the NCAA, it is listening to expectations of women’s basketball leadership while considering relations with “valued broadcast partners.”

According to the Wall Street Journal, the trademark on the term by the NCAA can be used for both the men’s and women’s tournament — but who is surprised that it isn’t.

The media hub for the women’s tournament is empty, while there are thousands of photos currently available of men’s games.

The NCAA’s response is it does not have enough photographers to staff or budget all rounds of every championship.

Then, the NCAA had the nerve to add that it is the first time in the women’s tournament history it will have photographers covering from the Sweet 16 through the Final Four.

You can’t tell me the NCAA couldn’t find anyone willing to take photos of these games being played.

I understand this year, everyone who would be on-site has to be tested daily for the coronavirus and that comes with a cost, but I know for a fact the NCAA could’ve employed students to take photos at these games. They could’ve made it work.

The men’s tournament is receiving daily PCR testing, while the women’s is receiving the less reliable antigen testing, according to the Chicago Tribune.

The NCAA has managed to show a sheer dedication to sexism in a way that is hard to conceptualize.

I mean, how can you have that many examples of inequality by coincidence? It feels like this was done on purpose.

To make matters worse, the NCAA is completely unapologetic for this blatant sexism throughout the tournaments.

If it wasn’t for players and coaches speaking out on social media, the NCAA wouldn’t have changed a thing.

Then once the weight room was improved, the official NCAA women’s basketball Twitter account posted a tweet with the caption “The weight room has arrived! Let’s gooooo.”

Is the NCAA expecting to be celebrated and praised after providing a bare minimum weight room following outrage from players and coaches, when it should’ve been like that from the start?

On Friday, NCAA Vice President of Women’s Basketball Lynn Holzman addressed the media and said the organization “fell short” and NCAA President Mark Emmert said in an interview Friday “this is not something that should have happened and, should we ever conduct a tournament like this again, will ever happen again.”

But again, how did this happen? Did nobody at the NCAA think when putting these tournaments together, this would cause an issue? At the very least, does the NCAA even see this as an issue?

The NCAA needs to wake up.

According to its website, the NCAA is “a member-led organization dedicated to the well-being and lifelong success of college athletes.”

It’s clear the NCAA is no longer acting in the best interest of its student-athletes.

The inequalities in the two basketball tournaments make that clear as day, but right now this leads to a bigger problem.

On March 31, the Supreme Court will hear the Alston v. NCAA case, which is examining antitrust laws to see whether players should be compensated.

Multiple players from more than 15 teams at the men’s basketball tournament wore “#NotNCAAProperty” T-shirts and have petitioned for the NCAA to allow athletes to secure representation and receive pay for their name, image and likeness.

In a tweet by Rutgers guard Geo Baker, he stated it clear as day: “If you don’t agree with that statement, then you are saying that you believe that I, a human being, should be owned by someone else.”

And right now, the NCAA, the same organization that clearly doesn’t see the importance of equality in men’s and women’s basketball, is currently in control. It will receive and estimated $900 million during March Madness and the players won’t see a penny.

Not to mention, a disproportionate amount of these student-athletes are Black.

Earlier this year, the NCAA postponed a vote allowing athletes to profit off their name, image and likeness, despite states like California, Colorado and Florida passing laws that make current NCAA rules illegal in the future.

The law in Florida goes into effect on July 1.

The NCAA has made it repeatedly clear it doesn’t care about the student-athletes and honestly, the NCAA is unfixable.

It’s time for schools to break away and start fresh with a new organization — one that actually cares about student-athletes.

The NCAA is out of time. It’s shown its stance, and now it needs to be left to die.

If you're interested in submitting a Letter to the Editor, click here.