The NCAA has received heavy criticism for the wide disparity in facilities and amenities at this year’s men’s and women’s basketball tournaments. Now, one of the nation’s top women’s coaches weighed in emphatically on the issue.
South Carolina’s Dawn Staley wrote a scathing open letter Friday expressing her disgust with the situation. In addition, she accused the NCAA of using the women’s game as a pawn as it tried to appear sympathetic to social justice causes.
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“What we now know is the NCAA’s seasonlong messaging about ‘togetherness’ and ‘equality’ was about convenience and a soundbite for the moment created after the murder of George Floyd,” Staley, who is also the coach of Team USA, wrote.
“We cannot as leaders of young women allow (NCAA president) Mark Emmert and his team to use us and our student-athletes at their convenience. Every team here in San Antonio has earned and deserves at a minimum the same level of respect as the men. All the teams here dealt with the same issues as the men’s teams this season; yet their ‘reward’ is different.”
A firestorm began Thursday when images from the women’s bubble in San Antonio were posted on social media. The example that received the most attention was the comical difference in weight training equipment: a single rack of dumbbells in the women’s facility vs. a full weight room inside the men’s bubble in Indianapolis.
There were also criticisms of the food at the women’s site and the disparity in complimentary items for men’s and women’s participants.
The NCAA executives in charge of women’s and men’s basketball, Lynn Holzman and Dan Gavitt, issued apologies Friday.
Holzman tweeted Thursday that space limitations in San Antonio were at the heart of the problem. She told reporters in a Zoom call Friday morning that the weight room issues would be rectified by Saturday. She also said more food options would be made available and defended the “swag” differences, calling them “minor” and based on the differences in bubble locations.
Staley looked beyond those two and went straight to the top of the NCAA.
“There is no answer that the NCAA executive leadership led by Mark Emmert can give to explain the disparities,” Staley wrote. “Mark Emmert and his team point blank chose to create them!”
SI.com reported Friday that NCAA’s Committee on Women’s Athletics wrote to Emmert requesting an investigation into the weight training disparities.
Dick’s Sporting Goods — perhaps sensing a public relations opportunity — pledged to send equipment to Texas.
It was not clear Friday night whether the NCAA had accepted the offer. The women’s tournament begins Sunday. South Carolina is the No. 1 seed in the Hemisfair Region.
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