NCAA apologizes to women's basketball players for weight room disparity
"We fell short this year in what we've been doing to prepare."
NCAA officials apologized for "dropping the ball" after providing women's basketball players with training facilities inferior to men's during the Division 1 tournaments.
"We fell short this year in what we've been doing to prepare in the last 60 days for 64 for teams to be here in San Antonio, and we acknowledge that," Lynn Holzman, the NCAA’s vice president of women’s basketball, said during a press briefing Friday, after images and video surfaced on social media showing the stark differences between the women's and men's weight room facilities in Texas and Indiana, respectively.
The apology comes after University of Oregon forward Sedona Prince posted a video Thursday night of the women's tournament weight room, which consisted of a single set of dumbbells. The video then showed what she said was the men's tournament weight room, which was stocked with rows of weights and training equipment.
"If you're not upset about this problem, then you are a part of it," Prince said.
Golden State Warriors' Stephen Curry retweeted the viral video, saying, "Come on now!"
Ali Kershner, a sports performance coach at Stanford University, also posted images to Instagram Thursday contrasting the women's sparse weight room to the men's more lavish one in Indianapolis.
"This needs to be addressed. These women want and deserve to be given the same opportunities," Kershner said. "In a year defined by a fight for equality this is a chance to have a conversation and get better."
In an initial statement Thursday evening, Holzman said limited space in the tournament bubble was a factor in the amenities available.
On Friday, Holzman said the NCAA was "actively working" on addressing the women's facilities, promising that improvements would be in place by Saturday morning.
Dan Gavitt, senior vice president of basketball for the NCAA, took the blame for the weight room controversy and said it will be fixed "as soon as possible."
"I apologize to women's basketball student-athletes, to the coaches, Women's Basketball Committee for dropping the ball, frankly, on the weight room issue in San Antonio," Gavitt said during Friday's press briefing.
Holzman said the NCAA became aware of the training facility concerns through social media on Thursday. Within a few hours, the NCAA held a conference call with coaches and administrators to solicit feedback.
"We're trying to do the right thing," Holzman said.
The weight room isn't the only area the NCAA is addressing. Athletes have also voiced concerns about the quality of food at the women's tournament while athletes are quarantining. Holzman said Friday that they have been working to provide athletes with more options that can be delivered to the controlled environment.
The weight room disparity has touched on larger issues of inequality in women's college basketball.
"The women’s basketball tournament ought to be an NCAA flagship event, yet it continues to be treated as some kind of cheap subsidized junior varsity by the book-cooking crooks," Washington Post columnist Sally Jenkins wrote in a column Friday. "All these women ever do is raise their arc of performance, command steadily increasing viewership and graduate at a sky-high rate of 93%. For which they get petty insults and cheap treatment."
In a video statement Friday in response to Prince's video, tennis trailblazer Billie Jean King criticized the NCAA's use of "Final Four" on social media to only highlight the men's tournament.
"We're always supposed to be so happy with just anything, the crumbs, whatever -- we're not happy anymore," King said. "We want equity. We want equality. We want the same."
When asked by The Associated Press' Doug Feinberg about broader inequality in the NCAA, including the fact that the men's tournament has 68 teams competing while the women's has 64, Gavitt said they have discussed that in the past and this presents a "very good opportunity" to address it again.
"We will pledge to do that," he said. "I think it's timely to raise those issues again."
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