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NCAA Criticized For Inequities Between Men, Women's Tournaments

NOEL KING, HOST:

A few days ago, a young woman named Sedona Prince, who plays for the Oregon Ducks women's basketball team, tweeted out a video she'd taken. It compared the men's and women's weight rooms that had been set up for the NCAA tournament. For the men, it was a huge gym with lots of weight and workout options. For the women, there was this tiny, little stack of dumbbells. A lot of people were very angry. The NCAA said that it fell short, and it upgraded the women's weight room. USA Today columnist Christine Brennan has been watching this story carefully. Good morning, Christine.

CHRISTINE BRENNAN: Good morning, Noel.

KING: What was your immediate response when you saw Sedona Prince's video?

BRENNAN: One was I thought these young women are confident and strong and powerful because of Title IX, because they played sports, and they're willing to speak out as never before. Also, they have a pathway now, a platform, and that's social media, to tell stories that could not be told. Even though these same stories could've been told 20, 30, 40 years ago, there was no way to tell them. Now they are telling them, and now the nation is hearing it.

And also that it resonated, that the United States really, really believes that women deserve equal opportunity and equal facilities, et cetera, in sports as men. And we have come to realize how much we love Title IX, the law that opened the floodgates for women and girls to play sports, and how this really was bothersome and troublesome and something that the country did not want to see. We want to see women having these opportunities - again, something that would not have been a conversation that would've resonated so deeply into the fabric of our nation even 20, 25 years ago.

KING: I want to understand what's behind the inequity. I looked at that video. I was horrified. Then I laughed and I said, but why? March Madness is big business, right? Schools bring in a lot of money. Is it the same for men and women?

BRENNAN: Certainly, the men's tournament makes more money than the women's tournament. That's not new...

KING: Right.

BRENNAN: ...That men's sports are way ahead of women's sports. In terms of starting and getting opportunities, basically, the NCAA started for women in 1982, and men have been playing for decades before that. But there's no doubt about that. Nonetheless, this really isn't about that money, the TV money. There's a budget. And you would think that someone at the NCAA would say, you know, let's make sure it's equal. And no one did. And why is that?

And I've looked at that issue over the years and written about it. And certainly, one of the things is just this ingrained sexism, institutional sexism that we just call it basketball - we don't even use that pesky adjective men's - to say when you, you know, fill out your bracket or the tournament, singular. No, it's plural tournaments. It's plural brackets. It is men's basketball, to give respect and to be correct when you talk about the fact that there's another basketball, women's basketball. All those things aren't being said. Think about it in your family. What do you say? You say, I'm going to do my bracket. And again, it is two brackets. And I think the respect for women is not there, and it starts at the top down from the NCAA.

KING: Well, I wonder then, are NCAA officials the best ones to take the lead in changing this, given that they've had years and they haven't done so?

BRENNAN: University presidents, Noel, are the ones who could do it. They could change this tomorrow. And we're also seeing Nancy Hogshead-Makar, top Title IX attorney, has said that there have been dozens of women athletes who have sued their schools for intentional sex discrimination. We may see more of that coming up in the next few months.

KING: Author and columnist Christine Brennan. Thanks, Christine.

BRENNAN: Noel, thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.