Don't even get me started about disparity between men's and women's sports on any level (OK, fine, I'll start). The NCAA women's and men's basketball tournaments have kicked off in their Texas and Indiana bubbles respectively, and yesterday, buzz amassed about the stark difference exhibited by a so-called "weight room" provided to women's teams in one of the tournament locations and the weight room in a men's tournament location. In one picture, you saw a single stack of dumbbells; in the other, a whole setup fit for heavy lifting. Can you guess whose is whose?
In the TikTok video above, Oregon Ducks forward Sedona Prince showed that disparity in further detail with footage from both locations. She added that the NCAA released a statement not naming money as the issue but, rather, space. However, Prince pans over the "lack of space" only to highlight that there is, indeed, ample room for similar strength-training equipment. "If you aren't upset about this problem, then you are a part of it," Prince, a redshirt sophomore, put bluntly.
Women from the WNBA spoke out. Las Vegas Aces' A'ja Wilson called it "beyond disrespectful." Sue Bird is fed up. NCAA vice president of women's basketball Lynn Holzman said in a statement, "We acknowledge that some of the amenities teams would typically have access to have not been as available inside the controlled environment."
As mentioned by Prince, Holzman blamed limited space, adding, "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."
Stanford sports performance coach Ali Kershner, who posted pictures of these differing strength-training areas, wrote on Instagram, "Not only that - 3 weeks in a bubble and no access to DBs above 30's [sic] until the sweet 16? In a year defined by a fight for equality this is a chance to have a conversation and get better." It's also worth noting that, according to The Athletic senior writer Chantel Jennings, weights provided even when teams reach the Sweet 16 round do not compare to the men's setup.
"If you aren't upset about this problem, then you are a part of it."
It's a bigger conversation around the overarching lack of equality in sports. As football star Abby Wambach, who is a staunch advocate for gender equality, told me during a previous interview last week: money is respect. The money put into women's programs and rewarded to women's athletes for the hard-earned work they do is a sign of respect — and, though Holzman didn't say money was the issue, tell that to the lackluster-by-comparison swag bags given to the women's teams (furthermore, if money really isn't to blame, lack of respect is far worse).
While efforts are being made around the world when it comes to pay equity and coverage across sports, it's the smaller details (as Prince called them, "bits and pieces of equality") like this that also need fixing. Sure, compensation changes made in collective bargaining agreements are huge wins, but what about off-court amenities that show women, "Hey, we get you're athletes. We respect you."?
Do you know how many women athletes I've interviewed who talk about their extensive training, especially with weight training? Spoiler alert: tons. Weight training is a crucial part of practice, and it isn't limited to a single stack of dumbbells. Women are strong, period.