COLUMN: The NCAA failed to provide female athletes bare minimum resources

Women’s basketball teams should not have to be responsible for calling out the NCAA on its sexism when the fault should not have existed.

Sarah Rubinstein is a freshman journalism major at MU. She is an opinion columnist who writes about politics and societal observations for The Maneater.

When recounting this year’s March Madness tournament, it is impossible to ignore the NCAA’s obvious sexism.

The attention started when Oregon’s Sedona Prince posted a TikTok comparing the men’s and women’s weight rooms for the NCAA March Madness tournament.The men’s workout area was one large space decked out with equipment and the women’s small area was supplied with a single rack of 5-pound dumbbells and some yoga mats. The NCAA responded by expanding the weight room, but the incident never should have occurred in the first place.

The weight room controversy is not an isolated event, but part of a prolonged struggle female athletes face to demand the same respect as men.

The women’s basketball players faced various disparities during this year’s March Madness indicating that the NCAA views them as lesser. Men’s teams were showered with massive swag bags and lobster macaroni and cheese. The women’s teams receive the same goodies, but only as “pre-packaged meals” and embarrassingly lacking swag bags, according to NBC Sports. The term ‘March Madness’ is not even granted to the women’s tournament. March Madness branding is completely absent from its center court logo. Female athletes' safety is not treated as highly as the men’s. Male athletes receive PCR COVID-19 tests and female athletes are only given less effective antigen tests. Not only does the NCAA choose to invest less money in women’s basketball as a whole, it chooses the cheaper option when it comes to female athlete’s health and safety.

The men’s tournament allowed fans at 25% capacity and only 17% for the women’s, where women’s basketball teams were denied the chance to fully showcase their abilities. Men are reserved the entire @MarchMadness Twitter handle and the women are degraded to a separate account and gendered hashtags, which keep them from matching the same social media presence. Here at MU, the men’s basketball team is given the official @MizzouHoops account, amassing 89.3k more followers than the women’s separate account.

Investing in men’s and women’s basketball also remains unequal within our campus. According to the Columbia Daily Tribune, in the 2019-2020 fiscal year, total expenses for men’s basketball were slightly over $9 million, and only $3.8 million for women’s. The NCAA has a $13.5 million budget gap between men’s and women’s basketball. While the NCAA has responded by claiming the public has a higher interest in men’s basketball, if women do not receive equitable news coverage, how can they drive up ticket sales? With downgraded resources, female athletes are set to fail in generating as much revenue and attention as male athletes.

It is not just female athletes the NCAA underrepresents, but also female coaches. According to The Athletic, female coaches who must bring their baby to the tournament in order to feed are penalized by their baby counting toward the number of people the team is allowed to bring to the tournament.

“So that coach’s team, if they want to feed their child, has to have one less athletic trainer, one less other coach, one less person in the traveling party,” ESPN sports reporter Rachel Nichols said.

In a public letter addressed to the NCAA, the head coach of women’s basketball at Georgia Tech wrote, “Thank you for using the three biggest weeks of your organization's year to expose exactly how you feel about women’s basketball — an afterthought.”

It is almost laughable that the NCAA is considered a nonprofit that “[equips] student-athletes to succeed on the playing field, in the classroom, and throughout life” when it considers 44% of its athletes to be meaningless.

Prince’s TikTok has been used as an example for people to demand action if they are dissatisfied with something, but female athletes should not have to demand the bare minimum. Don’t mistake the NCAA’s response as an attempt to recognize their wrongdoings and do better. This was an attempt to silence female athletes’ anger and shield them from discovering the deeper levels of sexism in the NCAA.

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