Editorial: Emmert, NCAA must embed a culture of equity immediately

Keywords Editorials / Opinion

The outcries over inequities between the NCAA’s women’s and men’s basketball tournaments are well grounded in fact.

The rage on social media was immediate and justified as photos blasted through the internet comparing the piddly weight room for women in San Antonio against the LA Fitness-like facility for the men in Indianapolis.

And that wasn’t all. Complaints also surfaced about subpar food and gift bags provided to the women players.

While the NCAA has taken issue with the gift-bag complaints, it has properly acknowledged and apologized for the weight-room disparity.

Still, a century after women won the right to vote in this country, they shouldn’t have to continue to beg, plead, cajole and scream for equity in the locker room or the boardroom.

In this day and age, simply apologizing for inequities is not enough. A culture of guaranteeing they don’t occur must be built into every institution, business and organization.

Thankfully, we’ve received more than just an apology from the NCAA. The organization seems to be taking the issue seriously. But there appears to be a long way to go toward building a culture of equity, toward making sure it is part of the NCAA’s DNA in all matters.

Among the immediate steps taken by the organization was a quick upgrade in the women’s weight-room facilities.

Additionally, the NCAA has hired Kaplan Hecker & Fink LLP, a law firm with experience in Title IX and gender-equity issues, to conduct an independent review of gender equity related to its men’s and women’s championship events.

“The NCAA will continue to aggressively address material and impactful differences between the Division I men’s and women’s basketball championships,” NCAA President Mark Emmert said in a statement. “While many of the operational issues identified have been resolved, we must continue to make sure we are doing all we can to support gender equity in sports. As part of this effort, we are evaluating the current and previous resource allocation to each championship, so we have a clear understanding of costs, spend and revenue.”

The $13.5 million spending gap between the two tournaments also has been a point of contention. The New York Times reported that the NCAA budgeted $28 million for the men’s 67-game tournament in 2019, while setting aside $14.5 million for the women’s championship, a 63-game competition.

But, as the NCAA notes, the men’s tournament is much larger and requires much more spending to accommodate fans—690,000 for men’s games in 2019, compared to 275,000 for the women’s.

The men’s basketball tournament also is the most lucrative of all NCAA sports, with its current television deal worth $19.6 billion through 2032.

Given all the furor raised by the differences in the two tournaments, the chairman of the NCAA’s board of governors still has given Emmert a vote of confidence in how he has addressed the inequities and how seriously he has taken the criticisms.

Now we need to see Emmert and the NCAA follow through on the commitments they have made and deeply embed a culture of equity that will prevent these problems from rising again.•

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