The NCAA’s annual March Madness tournament tipped off over the weekend.

After a year off due to the start of the pandemic in 2020, there’s a lot of buzz, excitement, and brackets being filled out and “busted” early. Ah, what can be more exciting than a return to the hardwood and a crazy four weeks of “madness?”

Unless you’re making people mad….

Which is what the NCAA did when it took “separate and unequal” and stepped out of bounds.

Over the weekend, social media came unglued when NCAA women athletes began posting pictures of the great disparity between the two “bubbles” where the men’s and women’s tournament were being held. The men’s tournament in Indianapolis was festooned with a lavish weight room, adjacent to a high quality practice court. The men received swag bags with goodies and have an outdoor area to get some fresh air, throw a football around, or just re-charge for strong mental health.

The women?

In San Antonio, the weight room was one rack of dumbbells (appropriate in this regard for the people in charge of outfitting it). My personal exercise room has more equipment.

When told by the NCAA that the problem was space, one player showed the capacious area behind the lonely rack that was not being used. The swag bags looked like something a young guest would receive at a child’s birthday party.

The dining facilities and quality of food was distasteful. While a full buffet of delicious and healthy cuisine was available for the men, the women’s dining opportunities were more of the boxed, take-out variety.

Even the COVID testing was inequitable. The men’s tournament actually received a more accurate testing protocol than the women.

Here’s the deal…while the NCAA leadership is falling all over itself trying to stand back up after an epic and colossal fail, the real issues being raised by women’s coaches (both female and male) and players is that this isn’t anything new.

The injustices around equity have been around forever. Had social media not existed, this embarrassment would have never been seen. The only reason the NCAA has hastened to try and remedy the situation is because they’ve been excoriated in the press and social media.

So while we are looking from the outside and correctly calling out this blunder, we’d also better be checking our own “bubbles.”

As a husband of a woman; a father to two women, and grandfather to two young women, I’m sensitive to the unfairness that they have had to overcome. It starts in schools and moves into professional and work life. It’s easy to talk a good game when the spotlight isn’t shining on us. It’s better to show through actions and behaviors that our companies and organizations are committed to creating equity and fairness when it comes to women in business and life.

In the end, the women athletes were never asking for anything better; they simply wanted the same facilities, dining hall, outdoor space, swag bag, and respect. They work just as hard and put in the same hours and sacrifices. In the same way, professional and working women often must work harder, spend more hours, and sacrifice even more than their male counterparts. They also want the same opportunities, wages, and respect.

In my book, that should be a layup.

Quote of the Week:

“Fortune befriends the bold.”

~ Emily Dickinson

Read article on topic by Mechelle Voepel at ESPN

Check out some pictures on Twitter (@AJ_McCord)

Watch University of Oregon’s Sedona Prince “show off” the weight room

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