How Social Media Sparked the NCAA’s Behavior Change in the 2021 Tournament
The NCAA is no stranger to scrutiny. Every move they make is put under a microscope by the media, fans, universities, and thousands of student athletes that make the sanctioning body billions of dollars every year without receiving a dime of payment for their efforts. But, it is rare that the NCAA ever gives into these demands, which makes the reversal of their treatment of their female athletes in this year’s college basketball tournament remarkable.
The Men’s Tournament is what most people think of when college basketball is mentioned. It’s March Madness – a phenomenon where everyone pretends to be sick for work, sneak in watching games at their desks, and fill out millions of brackets. There are a smaller number of people who watch the women’s tournament as intensely, but the inequalities of the two tournaments weren’t as well-known until this year’s tournament.
Both tournaments are in bubbles due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the men’s in Indianapolis and women’s in San Antonio. But the facilities and amenities could not be more different. The NCAA provided the men with an extensive weight room, giant buffets in the Indianapolis Convention Center, and a SWAG bag filled with licensed NCAA gear. Many assumed this was how the women’s tournament was as well, but through the power of social media, a light was shed on the inequalities and multiple violations of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. Title IX is meant to protect female student athletes from discrimination and inequality in athletics and education and the NCAA was in direct violation.
Social Media was the medium through which this inequality was spread. The University of Oregon women’s basketball team was arguably the most vocal team within the tournament regarding their accommodations with redshirt sophomore Sedona Price’s TikTok regarding the weight room comparison going viral in a matter of hours. HSE-alum and Oregon freshman Sydney Parrish’s TikTok also receiving over two million views.
After being called out on social media and outcry from celebrities to change, the NCAA uncharacteristically started to listen to their critics. Whether it was a sudden change of heart or legal pressure remains to be seen, but the upgrade of amenities this tournament to the women competing for the national championship has shed light on the inequality of women’s collegiate athletics. In the future if the NCAA falls back into gender issues, hopefully the examples of Prince and Parrish through social media will inspire others to take a stand. Story by Tristan Fluhr.