The NCAA has made improvements to the weight training facilities for its women’s basketball tournament in San Antonio, Texas — days after players and fans expressed outrage at the inequities between the women’s and men’s March Madness tournaments, both of which kicked off this week.
The women’s basketball teams awoke Saturday to find a bigger and more amply stocked weight room at the convention center where they practice. The facility now has “heavier weights, six squat racks, benches, resistance bands and exercise balls,” as well as exercise bikes, rowing machines, treadmills and yoga mats, among other equipment, ESPN reported.
“Guess what, guys? We got a weight room, yeah,” a thrilled Sedona Prince, forward for the University of Oregon, said in a video posted to Twitter.
“Social media is powerful,” she wrote. “Thank you for all of y’all’s support.”
The additions to the women’s weight room were made after players and coaches at the tournament lambasted the NCAA for providing vastly inferior facilities for the women’s tournament compared to the men’s competition, which is happening in Indiana.
Ali Kershner, a Stanford University sports performance coach, posted a photo on Instagram on Thursday which offered a side-by-side comparison of the two facilities. The men’s weight room was large and well-stocked with power racks and Olympic bars and weights, while the women’s setup appeared to consist of a single set of dumbbells and a stack of yoga mats.
The NCAA was later also accused of providing lower-quality food at the women’s tournament compared to the men’s, as well as less merchandise in the swag bags provided to the women’s teams.
“It’s 2021 and we’re still fighting for bits and pieces of equality,” Prince captioned in a Friday TikTok video showing the abysmal weight room.
“If you aren’t upset about this problem, then you’re part of it,” Prince said in the clip.
Social media users ― including NBA and WNBA stars ― were quick to confront the NCAA on its apparent double standards.
“Women’s @NCAA bubble weight room vs Men’s weight room ... thought this was a joke. WTF is this?!? To all the women playing in the @marchmadness tournament, keep grinding!” Sabrina Ionescu, point guard on the New York Liberty and last year’s NCAA national player of the year, wrote on Twitter.
A’ja Wilson of the WNBA slammed the NCAA for being “disrespectful,” and the NBA’s Kyrie Irving said “we can’t tolerate this.”
NBA star Steph Curry also chimed in, tweeting: “wow-come on now! @marchmadness @NCAA y’all trippin trippin.”
Facing pressure, the NCAA initially attempted to defend the women’s substandard weight room, saying “limited space” had necessitated the lack of equipment (though players promptly pointed out the expanses of empty space in their practice area).
The organization finally apologized Friday and vowed to do better.
“I apologize to the women’s student-athletes, coaches and committee for dropping the ball on the weight room issue in San Antonio, we’ll get it fixed as soon as possible,” Dan Gavitt, the NCAA’s senior vice president of basketball, said during a video conference call.
According to ESPN, NCAA officials have denied any significant disparities between the food and swag bags provided at the women’s and men’s tournaments.
Officials told the outlet that the swag bags for men and women were of equal value and that food availability in San Antonio was “based on the service of different hotels where the teams were staying.” They added that different food options were being organized for teams that had been dissatisfied.
Several sports and fitness companies including Dick’s Sporting Goods and Orangetheory Fitness offered this week to send fitness equipment to San Antonio for the women’s tournament.
“This tournament is a celebration of the best players in the league. No one should be asked to forgo their training at this critical moment,” Orangetheory said on Twitter.
Dick’s Sporting Goods has already prepared “truckloads” of equipment to be sent to San Antonio, USA Today reported. The company said Friday that it was waiting on the NCAA to approve the transfer of goods.