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NCAA upgrades weight room for women’s tournament after backlash

A viral video exposed the disparities between the men’s weight room and the stack of weights the women were given.

NCAA tournament Richard Shiro/AP

The NCAA has upgraded the weight room facility for the women’s basketball tournament teams ahead of the first games on Sunday (March 21).

After pictures of the disparities between the men’s weight room in Indianapolis and the women’s space in San Antonio surfaced on the Internet, the lack of equipment provided for the ladies was blatantly glaring.

University of Oregon sophomore forward Sedona Prince may have sparked the backlash after posting a viral tweet featuring a video she created on TikTok. Within the video, which drew responses from NBA superstar Steph Curry, tennis great Billie Jean King, and Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer, Prince shows off a fully furnished facility built for the men’s and a small rack of dumbbells provided for the women.

“I got something to show y’all,” she said in the viral video which has been viewed over seven million times. “So, for the NCAA March Madness, the biggest tournament in college basketball for women, this is our weight room… If you aren’t upset about this problem, then you are a part of it.”

The NCAA’s vice President of women’s basketball Lynn Holzman responded to the video in a statement to NBC News. “We acknowledge that some of the amenities teams would typically have access to have not been as available inside the controlled environment,” she said. “In part, this is due to the limited space and the original plan was to expand the workout area once additional space was available later in the tournament. However, we want to be responsive to the needs of our participating teams, and we are actively working to enhance existing resources at practice courts, including additional weight training equipment.”

For South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley, Holzman’s excuse was unsettling, and didn’t fully address the larger issue. Staley outlined her concerns in a statement released on Twitter with the hashtag #WHATMATTERS. “There is no answer that the NCAA executive leadership led by Mark Emmert can give to explain the disparities. Mark Emmert and his team chose to create them!” Staley wrote. “ The real issue is not the weights or the ‘swag’ bags; it’s that they did not think or do not think that the women’s players deserve the same amenities of the men.”

“What we now know is the NCAA’s season long messaging about ‘togetherness’ and ‘equality’ was about convenience and a soundbite for the moment created after the murder of George Floyd,” she continued.

Former Notre Dame head coach and two-time tournament champion Muffett McGraw also shared her thoughts on the issue via her own statement published on Twitter. “The fact that there are inequities in facilities, food, fan, attendance, and swag bags is not what bothers me. What bothers me is that no one on the NCAA’s leadership team even noticed,” she wrote. “After winning a national championship, we didn’t proudly present a big check to our university, we got a pat on the back and a ‘way to go girl.’ Well time’s up gentlemen. This generation of women expects more and we won’t stop until we get it.”

The NCAA clearly took notice. Overnight, they updated the women’s weight room area with several squat racks, treadmills, more dumbbells, medicine balls and a variety of other equipment, seen in a Sports Illustrated video. The new weight room will reportedly be available for players to use whenever they want.

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