Mia Cooper, Grade 11, Co-Editor-in-Chief
On March 18, Oregon women’s basketball player Sedona Prince posted a video on TikTok about her experience at the N.C.A.A. tournament. The video revealed the haphazard weight room the N.C.A.A. provided for female athletes: a stack of 12 dumbbells and a handful of yoga mats. Prince then panned over to the men’s weight room: a gym packed with squat racks and expensive equipment. “It’s 2021 and we are still fighting for bits and pieces of equality,” Prince wrote as her caption. Within a month, the video was viewed over 30 million times.
The glaring differences in the facilities provided to men and women college basketball players did not stop with weight rooms. Female athletes were given cheaper, less accurate COVID-19 tests, while the men received the more precise and expensive tests. The men had an array of decadent food choices, from lobster mac & cheese to potatoes au gratin. Prince reported what the women ate, which included a few pieces of lettuce as their salad and a slice of unidentifiable meat. The merchandise offered at the men’s tournament featured the famous March Madness logo, which was not on any of the women’s tournament merchandise, due to the N.C.A.A. decision that the moniker would only apply to men’s basketball.
Since the controversy, the N.C.A.A. apologized and gave women basketball players a full weight room and better food. This reversal only highlighted the long history of gender inequity in sports.
On July 10, 1999, the U.S. women’s soccer team faced China at the final of the Women’s World Cup. The game was decided by penalties, with Brandi Chastain scoring the dramatic winning goal and ripping off her shirt in celebration. Even after this memorable win, the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team was not paid the same as their male counterparts. Six months later, the team went on strike to protest this egregious wrong. Though it was resolved within months, the discussion’s revival in recent years has shown how gender inequalities are apparent in all sports.
The U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team filed a gender discrimination lawsuit in 2019 because the men’s team was still being paid more. Though the U.S. Soccer Federation earns more money from the women’s team, which plays and wins more games than the men’s, some female players were earning only 38 percent of what the male players earned each game. The lawsuit not only claimed that the women were paid less than men, but also said that the U.S. Soccer Federation was not advertising the women’s games equally and that the training and coaching techniques were not of the same quality. The inequality of the U.S. Women’s National Team is not lost on students at the High School of American Studies.
Carly Brail, a junior at HSAS and a member of the track and tennis teams, feels frustrated with the persistent gender inequities in both national soccer and college basketball. As an avid fan of the women’s soccer team, Brail mentioned her indignation that the female athletes are still paid less than their male counterparts. “The men failed to get beyond the round of 32 in the recent World Cup,” she said, referring to the low international standing of the U.S. men’s team compared to the U.S. women’s team. Because of this, she is disappointed but not shocked that the N.C.A.A. women’s basketball tournament is facing similar challenges. She said that the recent controversy reinforces the message that male sports teams are respected while women’s sports teams still have a ways to go.
The N.C.A.A.’s apology and short-term remedies only go so far. Women’s basketball coaches and players have urged the association to use the outrage over Sedona Prince’s viral TikTok as a catalyst to address deeper systemic issues in women’s sports. Prince ended her video with the poignant message, “If you are not upset about this problem, then you are a part of it.”