South Carolina women’s basketball coach Dawn Staley offered some sharp criticism of the NCAA after the revelation of disparate facilities and amenities being offered at the men’s and women’s national championship tournaments.
Staley, speaking today before her top-seeded Gamecocks face No. 16 seed Mercer on Sunday to start their bid for a second national title, was asked about images and videos that have emerged on social media comparing the weight room facilities set up for the men’s and women’s tournaments in their “controlled environments” in Indianapolis and San Antonio, respectively.
While videos and images from the men’s tournament show a full range of weights and equipment, Oregon forward Sedona Prince shot video that showed that the women were given a set of dumbbells and yoga mats but nothing else. Her video went viral, with WNBA and NBA stars, including South Carolina great A’ja Wilson, criticizing the NCAA for the inequality.
Staley said those differences, along with differences from the gift bags distributed to players in each tournament to the COVID-19 tests being used, have led her to question other decisions made by the NCAA this season.
“Here’s what what it makes you do — it makes you go back to the very beginning, when the NCAA rolled out that the men were having their tournament in Indianapolis, and then we rolled out a month later. There is a disconnect with that,” Staley said. “If you’re going to have a championship for both men’s and women’s, wouldn’t it be best to roll it out at the same time? I think it’s only right, so I don’t know why they didn’t work in concert for that to happen. So, I mean, you got to ask the powers that be that made that decision to do that, because it makes you think about every single thing now.”
Staley also lamented that the controversy has distracted from the excitement of the tournament itself.
“I got maybe two or three questions for Mercer, who is our opponent, instead of this whole press conference is about stuff. And I’m willing to answer it because we have to stand up for what our championship stands for,” Staley said. “Do we make a whole lot of money at this? No, you know, but the men make a whole lot more for everybody. But we should feel it, we should be a part of it. And it is not just contained to our championship. It’s on our campuses. So this is nothing new.”
The NCAA has apologized, with a spokesperson telling the Washington Post that officials “initially thought there was not enough square footage for a weight facility at the convention center playing host to the women’s tournament.” Lynn Holzman, the NCAA’s vice president of women’s basketball, told reporters that the organization was “actively working” to resolve the issue.
But Staley pushed back on the idea that Holzmann should be blamed for the issue.
“It isn’t women’s basketball. It is the decision-makers, the decision-makers who know exactly what’s going on, and they put the women’s basketball leaders in a position of having, you know, the firing squad, answering questions about things that she probably can’t share,” Staley said. “But, you know, big picture, this isn’t her fault at all. I don’t blame Lynn at all. I think she’s heroic for facing the music and having to do what she needs to do, probably to protect some other people.
“Women all over the country, in corporate America, in sports, are put in the position that she’s in. There’s no way. You know, there’s no way that we should be in this position as women to have to defend the championship that we so excitedly want to be a part of.”
Staley also criticized those who have defended the NCAA saying the women’s tournament doesn’t generate enough revenue to have the same amenities as the men’s tourney. In particular, she referenced an Instagram comment from NBA player Nick Young, who wrote that the women’s teams were “not bringing in the big bucks y’all the JV team and it’s cool.”
“You add insult to injury, and you have guys out there just saying some disgusting things about, ‘We’re not making money, we’re the JV.’ That ain’t cool. That ain’t cool, because that’s what happens in boardrooms. …. There’s a miscommunication at the highest level of the NCAA,” Staley said. “Either it’s miscommunication, no communication or just not downright caring, if people know what’s happening on our side of things, and that must stop. That must stop, because we’re under the umbrella of March Madness. If the NCAA owns March Madness and all of its luxury, then it should feel luxurious to every student-athlete, man or woman.”
Staley had previously responded directly to Young’s comment on Instagram, and Young, who was previously criticized for a sexist tweet about the WNBA, has claimed he was hacked.
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