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Sunday, June 23, 2024
Photo of the original weight room at the 2021 NCAA Women's National Basketball Tournament.

Ali Kershner, a women's basketball coach at Stanford, posted this picture on Instagram of the weights that all members of the NCAA women's basketball tournament were expected to use. The NCAA has since added a fully-fledged weight room after outrage ran rampant through the sports world.

How the NCAA re-enforces a culture of sports inequality

Collegiate athletics have been plagued for years facing issues of exploitative practices when it comes to how they support college athletes. College athletes face many challenges when it comes to funding their education — especially athletes competing in sports outside the NCAA’s primary revenue streams and women’s athletes. 

When Sedona Prince, forward for the Oregon Ducks, arrived at the NCAA March Madness bubble in San Antonio, she exposed much of the culture surrounding how the NCAA mistreats its athletes.

Prince posted a TikTok comparing the men’s and women’s weight rooms allocated at the event, where male athletes were provided a full weight room with benches, squat racks and many other workout machines. In comparison, the women’s weight room consisted of a seemingly misplaced set of dumbbells.

The NCAA claimed that they were unable to provide a full weight room due to a lack of available space, however that seems to be disproved when Prince pans to a near-empty room in the video.

A certain culture exists when it comes to NCAA sports, which often neglects sports that don’t help the NCAA’s profit margin. 

It’s no secret that much of the NCAA’s revenue comes from men’s football and basketball — in particular broadcasting rights allow the NCAA to operate and distribute funds across all sports which the organization serves. Because of this bottom line, the NCAA has neglected all the sports which it serves, instead focusing on sports which make it money as evidenced by Prince’s weight room video.

The NCAA has been able to hide behind a mask of supposed generosity as it claims to allow women’s sports and other sports to operate because of ticket sales for football and basketball, but when they hold this hostage over serving all sports  — as mandated by Title IX legislation — they simply reinforce this culture of inequality and inferiority against women’s athletics. 

Whether or not a sport makes money shouldn’t matter when it comes to adequate resources for these collegiate athletes. Simply put, the NCAA doesn’t pay its athletes that generate about $1 billion annually, therefore they have no right to discriminate its funding to only help sports which profit the organization.

Even further, the NCAA’s nonprofit status should mean that it’s job is not to make money for itself, but instead serve all collegiate athletes. Not just the ones that put money in their pockets. Some economists suggest that a player like Trever Lawrence could earn $2.4 million per season, and other star players could see contracts upwards of $1 million.

Sure, this seems like a bit of an overreach to provide million dollar contracts to 20-something year-olds, but it goes to show that the NCAA has money to go around. The NCAA doesn’t need to pay Graham Mertz $1 million to play next year, but it certainly can afford more than a set of dumbbells for one of the largest tournaments in college sports.

We need to stop gaslighting the issue of providing appropriate funding for college athletes. According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, less than 7% of revenue from college football and basketball broadcasts goes towards scholarships and stipends for athletes. The NCAA has money, and could very well afford much more than the disrespectful weight room display in San Antonio. 

Money is not the barrier to why women’s athletics are not treated equal to other sports. It’s the culture that the NCAA’s actions seem to promote.

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As it stands the NCAA seems to make little-to-no effort to promote other sports in order to get those sports the recognition they deserve. The NCAA worked to promote equality — not through performative apologies, but instead by actively supporting women’s athletics. By doing this, the NCAA becomes a leader in not only advancing gender equality in sports, but also through discourse of other issues across the country by becoming an ally to all athletes.

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