During this year’s NCAA tournament, the organization came under fire not only for its lack of resources for the women's teams, but for the drastic difference in materials and services compared to the men's tournament.
The issue was first brought to light by a Stanford sports performance coach named Ali Kershner who posted two photos onto Instagram. One photo was the men's setup showing benches and other types of weight equipment. The other photo of the women's setup showed a set of free weights and some yoga mats.
The NCAA blamed the small amount of workout equipment due to space confinements and COVID protocols, but other players were quick to call out the claim and post videos about the large amount of building space available surrounding the “workout area.”
The NCAA has since apologized and taken steps to remedy the issue this year and years to come.
I think this situation brings an important point to fighting for equal access among all genders and sexes. If something is wrong, bring attention to it. Activists today have access to the internet and social media. If there is an issue, document it and post it online.
If players had not spoken up publicly, nothing may have been done. However, when utilizing the power of a team’s fan base and beyond, the NCAA quickly recognized the problem.
There is power in numbers. The players may have been ignored if they only spoke up about it within the confines of the tournament walls. The same goes for any other unequal situation. It can be hard to want to bring attention to issues, especially if it affects your personal life. However, if it’s legally feasible and you are comfortable, it can be an amplifier that can result in quicker action.
This is especially true for large organizations like the NCAA, as public perception is everything. If a bad image of them comes to light on the internet, they will try and remedy that new reputation, hopefully, as quickly as possible — especially if it has spread to a larger scale of people. If they don’t remedy the unequal practices, at least people who hear the story can be informed decide for themselves if they wish to support that organization.
If issues remain hidden in the dark, there will be little motivation to change them. However if the issues are brought into the light, the pressure will grow and eventually make a change. We have to drag out these issues into the public eye and find permanent solutions.
Disclaimer: I want to emphasize that if you feel unsafe or threatened in any situation you should seek legal and professional support. Not all situations are appropriate to post online especially associated with certain legal proceedings. Always seek permission from those that are directly affected by the situation.
Kaylee Sheppard is a graduate student in the Accelerated Master in Public Policy program. She can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.
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