March Madness has returned. College basketball fans are once again checking and betting on their brackets, cheering on their schools and hoping their team will win. The literal madness surrounding the tournament is nothing new, but there is new light being shed on the gender disparities in college athletics.
Sedona Prince, a forward for the University of Oregon’s women’s basketball team, posted a TikTok on March 18, showing the vast differences between women’s training facilities and men’s. The female athletes’ weight room consisted of one rack of dumbbells in a small corner, while male athletes were given a significantly larger space, complete with a wide range of equipment.
Prince’s TikTok went viral; thousands of people were soon commenting on it, calling upon the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) to do more to ensure that female athletes receive equal treatment.
Following significant criticism, the women’s teams were given larger training facilities, as documented by Prince’s follow-up TikTok on March 20. The new weight room was in a much larger space, with more than just dumbbells to train with. After showing the new facilities, Prince acknowledged how the NCAA made the necessary changes.
“Thank you NCAA for listening to us,” she said, before showing some of her teammates’ excitement at the change.
While the association did make the necessary changes, the initial inequalities between its treatment of women’s and men’s teams speaks to a larger issue in the world of college sports. Disparities between male and female athletes have long existed, so much so, that many were not shocked to hear of this recent news.
Abby Horick, a sophomore marketing major at the University of Maryland, said that when she first saw Prince’s TikTok, she was disappointed and angered, but not surprised, as it was another example of how rampant inequality is within college athletics.
Horick said she thinks there are significant disparities in college athletics, which are largely demonstrated in how women’s and men’s teams are respected, and even marketed. “If you look at how the different teams are treated, men’s versus women’s, the men’s teams are usually respected so much more and also marketed more,” she said.
Alexandra Hargrett, a member of the university’s track and field team and a sophomore accounting major, attested to the deep-set disparities between women’s and men’s college sports. “I was really actually upset and kind of disgusted, honestly, that somebody, and multiple somebodies in high positions, you know, said that that was okay,” she said. However, Hargrett was “not surprised in the slightest.”
She said there have surely been other instances in which female athletes have received less than their male counterparts. “I’m sure that there are many, many women from previous tournaments who even probably received less...swag bags [or] probably less food,” Hargrett said.
While she said she is confident that Maryland Athletics treats their women’s sports well, she acknowledged that there are obviously differences that are deeply ingrained into how female and male athletes are treated and viewed. It is implicit bias that has caused female athletes not to receive the athletic respect they deserve, Hargett said.
The unequal treatment is not limited to college basketball, it extends to other sports. For instance, Hargett noted that there is a significant difference in how track and field commentators speak about female and male athletes. Women are identified by their physical attributes, while men are identified by their names, she said.
Rainelle Jones, a member of the university’s volleyball team and a junior American studies major, said that although her sport is usually viewed as more feminine, there are few women represented in leadership positions.
“There are very little women head coaches or very little women referees and usually if there are women referees they're working the table to do statistics and then the men are usually the ones that work with, I guess the higher level of the refereeing,” Jones said.
Because men’s teams often dominate sports such as basketball, women’s teams often do not receive the same amount of attention. “I feel like women definitely do have to work almost twice as hard to get that same attention,” she said.
For Jones, working to resolve the disparities between women’s and men’s sports begins with male athletes. She said they should use their privilege and power within sports to start important conversations surrounding equality.
“It just takes a simple conversation just to... make sure that their friends are respecting one another [and] they're all teaching each other how to make all of us equal, even though they aren't experiencing it, they can definitely, you know, have the opportunity to help one another,” Jones said.