The shameful treatment of women in sports at the hands of the federations they play in continues to amaze and astonish, this time courtesy of the NCAA as March Madness kicks off.
Oregon Ducks player Sedona Prince went viral with a video contrasting the weight rooms provided for the women’s teams and the men’s and … wow. The women got a single rack of dumbbells and some yoga mats. As my Daily Kos coworker Jessica Sutherland responded, “I'm in my 40s with a spinal injury AND I HAVE A BETTER SETUP IN MY GARAGE.” On the other hand, the men got a weightlifting palace, basically.
The NCAA acknowledged differences in the facilities available to the teams, but in wholly dismissive fashion. There wasn't room for better facilities for women, they claimed—but as Prince and others showed, there was plenty of room. And, come on, “the athletic tournament we planned does not have adequate space for necessary athletic equipment” is not an acceptable excuse, either.
Once the workout facilities were getting widespread attention, people started noticing some other differences. Like the swag bags given to players.
The NCAA offered a reason for this: the weather. According to NCAA Women’s vice president Lynn Holzman, the weather is different in Indianapolis and San Antonio and that’s why the men got a massive array of paraphernalia and toiletries while the women got about what you might get in the swag bag at a dumpy hobbyist conference. It’s weather that led the tournament to provide men with one product after another branded for the specific tournament while women get a couple pieces of generic NCAAW gear.
The eye-poppingly unequal array of toiletries appear to come from Unilever, a leading company on the diversity best practices inclusion index, as a company press release from 2019 bragged. Not when it comes to how they supply male and female athletes, apparently.
If you want an actual numeric count on the different value the NCAA places on women and men, check this out: the swag bags included puzzles. The men’s puzzles had 500 pieces. The women’s had 150.
Then there was the food:
The men get a huge table filled with choices. The women get a mystery substance.
This is a familiar story, of course. In soccer, members of the U.S. women’s national team—massively more successful than their male counterparts—sued for fair pay and equal working conditions, ultimately reaching a settlement on working conditions after a judge disallowed the pay portion of the suit. In ice hockey, women on the national team refused to play in the 2017 world championship if they didn’t get better pay and support.
It needs to end. These are athletes at the top of their game, in the major tournament at their level, a place they have fought for years to arrive. Treat them like it.