March Madness gender inequality is unacceptable

Kate Gross, Feature Editor

As a woman who plays basketball, there is nothing more frustrating than having your achievements or worth as an athlete be marginalized by the sexist and discriminatory messages that our society consistently amplifies and promotes: “You don’t matter. You are lesser than the men’s teams. No one cares about women’s sports.” 

These messages are evident in things like the number of fans at my high school basketball games, the comments people make discussing the legitimacy of the WNBA, and the disparities in funding and resources between men’s and women’s teams-as seen during this March Madness tournament.

The disparities between the women’s “weight rooms,” tournament apparel, COVID-19 tests and meal options in comparison to the men’s accommodations make obvious which gender the NCAA values. This blatant display of sexism is unacceptable, and there is no excuse for it. 

Some argue that because the men’s teams make more money, they are worth more than the women’s teams. There is no doubt that the NCAA makes more money from the men’s March Madness tournament than the women’s tournament-in fact, the majority of the over $1 billion yearly revenue the NCAA as a whole generates comes from the men’s March Madness tournament-money which is then used to fund other NCAA sports and their respective athletes. 

It is no secret that the men’s March Madness tournament offers huge financial gain for the NCAA. But the problem lies not in the fact that the men’s tournament generates more revenue, it’s that people all too often equate money with equality. Just because the women’s teams generate less revenue, it does not mean that they are undeserving of equal treatment and respect. 

Additionally, while the cost of the women’s basketball tournament may surpass the NCAA’s profit from that said tournament, women’s basketball is just one of 85 NCAA sports to which this situation applies. Only five of the 90 NCAA championships fund themselves, with men’s basketball being one of them. The other 85 do not make enough money to offset the cost of their tournament, but that does not mean these sports should be treated as lesser.

It is not an extreme drain on the NCAA’s resources to provide the women’s teams with an average-sized weight room. As a non-profit organization that earns and spends hundreds of millions of dollars each year with the mission of “equipping student-athletes to succeed,” it should not be difficult to provide female athletes with basic training equipment and accommodations, especially when they provide these resources to the men. 

One of, if not the most, frustrating aspects of this situation is that the NCAA thought they could get away with this obvious disregard for their female athletes. After trying to hide behind a defense of “lack of space” in the women’s practice facilities (which was quickly proven false in videos shared by players and coaches such as Oregon forward Sedona Prince) the NCAA eventually owned up to their mistake, with NCAA President Mark Emmert saying, “This is not something that should have happened and, should we ever conduct a tournament like this again, will ever happen again.”

Emmert is right. This never should have happened. Men and women deserve equal treatment from the NCAA. To deny equal treatment is an insult to all the female athletes who have fought for decades (and continue to fight) for the respect and equality they deserve. NCAA, do better.