March Madness is here—and this year, the annual NCAA college basketball tournament looks more different than ever, thanks to precautions to prevent the spread of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
That challenge has made staging the event an exercise in caution, especially when it comes to the facilities used by competitors when they're not playing on court. Players will be kept in a "bubble" environment as the tournament progresses to limit exposure. But as organizers attempted to create an environment for the participants to train and live while staying safe, some people are pointing out the clear visual disparities between accommodations for the spaces made for men's tournament competitors in Indiana and those made for women's tournament competitors in Texas.
The controversy stems from the strength and conditioning facilities for the athletes. Stanford Women's Basketball sports performance coach Ali Kershner, M.S., C.S.C.S. shared a photo of the setup in Texas for the women's competitors—which included a weight tree of small denomination dumbbells and "sanitized yoga mats"—with a picture of the Men's setup in Indiana, which was filled with weight racks, barbells, and heavy plates.
An NCAA statement attributed to VP of Women's Basketball Lynn Holzman following the social media uproar to Kershner's tweet cited "limited space" as the reason for the sparse setup.
But Kershner wasn't alone in decrying the lack of equipment for the Women's competitors, even after the NCAA's statement. Sedona Prince, a player for the University of Oregon's team, shared a video originally posted to her TikTok account on Twitter, which appeared to show plenty of open floor for strength training equipment in the facility.
"If you aren't upset about this problem, you're a part of it," she says to close the video.
Reactions to these images and videos have come from all corners of the sports world. Kershner's video has been viewed 9.5 million times (as of publishing), and was retweeted by two-time NBA MVP Stephen Curry, who decried the imbalance of accommodations.
Current WNBA star and former Oregon standout Sabrina Ionescu also tweeted out photos comparing the setups, and urged all the women's players to "keep grinding". That message was retweeted by NBA stars Ja Morant and CJ McCollum.
As might be expected, a wave of commenters claimed that the imbalance was justified because the women's tournament produces less revenue, none of which we'll link to here. But regardless of whether that might be true, a clear discrepancy between facilities might constitute a federal Title IX violation. Washington Post reporter Molly Hensley-Clancy shared that the NCAA's committee on women's athletics is indeed requesting an investigation into the situation.
For its part, the NCAA has backtracked on its initial statement, with Holzman acknowledging to the Washington Post that tournament organizers "fell short this year in what we've been doing to prepare," and that the NCAA is "actively working" to improve the women's facilities.
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