- The NCAA came under fire Thursday after viral images showed the glaring difference in weight room accommodations at its men’s and women’s basketball tournament sites.
- The photos showed that men’s teams had access to several rows of heavy-duty weight lifting equipment while the women’s weight room consisted of six pairs of dumbbells under 30 pounds and a stack of yoga mats.
- The organization responded by promising to enhance the women’s workout setup and blamed its current state on “limited space,” though many rejected that claim, including Oregon player Sedona Prince, who posted a viral TikTok showing the vast amount of open room at the practice facility.
- Both NBA and WNBA stars have slammed the unequal accommodations, with other critics also pointing to the significantly smaller “swag bags” women’s teams were given in comparison to the men’s teams.
Viral Weight Room Photos Spark Criticism
The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) is facing intense backlash after several basketball coaches, players, and fans criticized clear disparities between amenities at its men’s and women’s basketball tournament sites.
On Thursday, Stanford Sports Coach Ali Kershner posted shocking photos specifically comparing the women’s and men’s basketball weight rooms. The men’s room featured rows and rows of weight lifting equipment. Meanwhile, the women’s weight room (if it can even be considered that) consisted of six pairs of dumbbells and a stack of yoga mats.
“This needs to be addressed,” Kershner wrote in her Instagram post caption after tagging the organization and its affiliated basketball accounts.
“These women want and deserve to be given the same opportunities. Not only that – 3 weeks in a bubble and no access to [dumbbells] above 30’s until the sweet 16? In a year defined by a fight for equality this is a chance to have a conversation and get better.”
That post went viral, drawing in criticism from everyday college basketball fans as well as several WNBA players.
Chantel Jennings, a reporter for The Athletic, also released a list of the equipment the final 16 women’s teams were set to gain access to at that stage in the tournament, which was still far less impressive than what the men’s teams already had access to.
Teams that do get to the Sweet 16 receive:— Chantel Jennings (@ChantelJennings) March 18, 2021
(I’m no weight room expert, but based off counting alone, I’m going to say that it’s still less than what’s pictured for the men’s tournament.) pic.twitter.com/5Y9Q5IIluy
NCAA’s Response Draw More Outrage
The growing backlash eventually prompted the NCCA Vice Present of Women’s Basketball, Lynn Holzman, to issue a statement.
“We acknowledge that some of the amenities teams would typically have access to have not been as available inside the controlled environment,” Holzman said in a post shared to the organization’s social media.
“In part, this is due to the limited space and the original plan was to expand the workout area once additional space was available later in the tournament. However, we want to be responsive to the needs of our participating teams, and we are actively working to enhance existing resources at practice courts, including additional weight training equipment.
However, that claim about “limited space” was quickly rejected by people like Will Abrams, the director of player development for the Rutgers women’s team.
He posted a response video giving a glimpse at the vast amount of space available at the women’s practice facility.
That same criticism was echoed by Oregon player Sedona Prince, who posted a now-viral TikTok exposing just how much room was available.
“If you aren’t upset about this problem, then you’re a part of it,” Prince said in the post.
That TikTok was even shared by NBA star Stephen Curry. Meanwhile, reporter Jemele Hill posted a screenshot reminding people of the $500 million deal ESPN and the NCAA agreed to that included broadcasting the women’s tournament.
Others on social media also noted that the differences in how men’s and women’s teams are treated extend beyond just weight rooms. In fact, many even pointed to images of the “swag bags” provided to players at both tournaments, which showed that the men had been given a large number of items custom-designed for this year’s March Madness tournament. The women’s bag, by contrast, included only a few generic items, including a 150-piece puzzle and a towel that said “NCAA women’s basketball.”
From what I have been shown it appears the swag bags that the Men receive from the @NCAA are much more substantial than the Women as well. @ncaawbb @marchmadness. C’mon NCAA do better. Be better! pic.twitter.com/tDRjI9e5UJ— Dan Henry (@danhenry3) March 18, 2021
Others pointed to the differences between food options given to women’s and men’s teams.
More outrage spread when reporters learned about differences in the COVID-19 tests being used at each tournament. Women’s teams reportedly take antigen tests while men’s teams take PCR tests. According to the FDA, antigen tests give quick results, but they “have a higher chance of missing an active infection.” Meanwhile, PCR tests are considered “the gold standard” for COVID testing by many medical professionals.
The NCAA caught flack for defending that choice and saying there was no risk difference between the tests.
However, it did say that it followed recommendations from its medical advisory group and collaborated with the CDC as well as local medical authorities for its testing policy. The NCAA’s medical advisory group had advised that either daily PCR or antigen tests were “equally effective models for basketball championships.”
With outrage growing, NCAA Senior VP of Basketball Dan Gavitt apologized for the weight room discrepancies in a Zoom call Friday. He promised to get the facility upgraded as soon as possible, which happened over the weekend.
During that call, other differences were brought up, like the fact that there are 68 teams in the men’s field and only 64 in the women, and the fact that the NCAA pays for the men’s National Invitation Tournament, but not the women’s NIT.
The organization ultimately promised to do better, but conversations about sexism in the sports world have continued, with teams and players continuing to speak out.
Stanford’s basketball coach, for instance, issued a statement saying, “Women athletes and coaches are done waiting, not just for upgrades of a weight room, but for equity in every facet of life.”
“With the obvious disparity between the women’s and men’s tournaments, the message that is being sent to our female athletes, and women across the world, is that you are not valued at the same level as your counterparts. That is wrong and unacceptable.”
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (Fox News) (Sports Illustrated)
U.S. Pledges To Donate 500 Million More Vaccines Globally
The announcement comes as wealthy nations face pressure to help lower-income countries deal with the pandemic and as American vaccine makers face calls to share their technology.
Biden Promises More Vaccines
President Joe Biden announced Wednesday that the U.S. will purchase 500 million doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for countries in need, bringing the total number of U.S. vaccine donations to more than 1.1 billion.
Biden’s pledge, which was made at a virtual COVID-19 summit, comes as world leaders and organizations have criticized wealthy nations for not doing enough to help lower-income countries deal with the pandemic. Many have also slammed countries like the U.S. for moving forward with plans for booster shots while so much of the world remains unvaccinated.
According to the University of Oxford’s Our World in Data project, of the six billion shots administered globally, nearly 80% percent have been given in high- and upper-middle-income countries compared to just 0.5% in low-income countries.
While several wealthy nations begin to give booster shots, just 2% of people in low-income countries have received at least one dose.
Pressure Grows for American Companies to Share Vaccine Technology
It’s not just wealthy countries and their leaders that are being met with criticism over the massive vaccination gap. There is also a lot of growing pressure on American drug companies to share their formulas with manufacturers in poor nations that need more doses.
Senior officials told The New York Times that the Biden administration privately asked Pfizer and Moderna to engage in joint ventures where they license their technology to contract manufacturers in an effort to provide vaccines to low- and middle-income nations.
While those conversations reportedly prompted Pfizer to sell the U.S. the 500 million doses announced this Wednesday at a not-for-profit price, the company still refused to license its technology.
Meanwhile, the alleged discussions appear to have had no impact at all on Moderna.
Many have argued the Moderna has even more of an obligation to share its technology given that it was developed in part by the National Institutes of Health. On top of that, the company accepted an additional $2.5 billion in taxpayer money as part of Operation Warp Speed.
In a statement to The Times on Tuesday, a Moderna spokeswoman said that the company had agreed not to enforce its COVID-related patents and was “willing to license our intellectual property for Covid-19 vaccines to others for the post pandemic period.”
But experts say that vaccine technology is needed now, not when the pandemic is over.
Many have argued that Biden should put more pressure on the companies to share their intellectual property, including some legal experts who said he could compel them to do so using the Defense Production Act, which gives the president broad emergency powers.
Administration officials, however, have argued that forcing the companies to share the information is more complicated, and any efforts to do so would result in legal battles that will ultimately be counterproductive.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (NPR) (The Wall Street Journal)
Texas Doctor Says He Violated Abortion Law, Opening Matter Up for Litigation
Under the state’s new law, any citizen could sue the doctor, which would make the matter the first known test case of the restrictive policy.
Dr. Braid’s Op-Ed
A Texas doctor revealed in an op-ed published in The Washington Post Saturday that he performed an abortion in violation of the state’s law that bans the procedure after six weeks, before most people know they are pregnant.
The law, which is the most restrictive in the country and does not have exceptions for rape and incest, also allows civilians to sue anyone who helps someone receive an abortion after six weeks.
In the op-ed, Dr. Alan Braid, who has been practicing as an OB/GYN in Texas for 45 years, said that just days after the law took effect, he gave an abortion to a woman who was still in her first trimester but already beyond the state’s new limit.
“I acted because I had a duty of care to this patient, as I do for all patients, and because she has a fundamental right to receive this care,” he wrote. “I fully understood that there could be legal consequences — but I wanted to make sure that Texas didn’t get away with its bid to prevent this blatantly unconstitutional law from being tested.”
Braid went on to say that he understands he is taking a personal risk but that he believes it is worth it.
“I have daughters, granddaughters and nieces,” he concluded. “I believe abortion is an essential part of health care. I have spent the past 50 years treating and helping patients. I can’t just sit back and watch us return to 1972.”
If someone does opt to sue Braid over this matter, he could potentially be the state’s first test case in playing out the legal process. However, it is unclear if anti-abortion groups will follow through, despite their threats to enforce the law.
A spokesperson for Texas Right to Life, which set up a website to report people suspected of violating the ban, told reporters this weekend that it is looking into Braid’s claims but added, “It definitely seems like a legal stunt and we are looking into whether it is more than that.”
Even if abortion opponents hold off on Braid’s case, there are other legal challenges to the Texas law.
Shortly after the policy took effect, the Department of Justice filed a lawsuit attempting to stop it. Last week, the department filed an emergency motion asking a federal judge in the state to temporarily block the ban while that legal battle plays out, with a hearing for that motion set for Oct. 1.
Regardless of what side the federal judge rules for, the other is all but ensured to sue, and that fight could take the question to the Supreme Court in a matter of months.
See what others are saying: (NPR) (The Texas Tribune) (The Wall Street Journal)
Pfizer Says Low Dose of COVID-19 Vaccine Is Safe and Effective in Kids 5 to 11
Pfizer Says Kids’ Vaccine Works
Pfizer announced Monday morning that its joint COVID-19 vaccine with BioNTech is safe and effective in kids ages 5 to 11.
While Pfizer’s vaccine candidate for younger children is the same version the FDA has already approved for people 12 and older, the children’s dose is only one-third of the amount given to adults and teens. Still, Pfizer said the antibody response they’ve seen in kids has been comparable to the response seen in older participants.
Similarly, the company said side effects in children have been similar to those witnessed in adults.
Pfizer said it expects to finish submitting data, which still needs to be peer-reviewed and then published, to the FDA by the end of the month. From there, the agency will ensure that Pfizer’s findings are accurate and that the vaccine will be able to elicit a strong immune response in kids at its current one-third dosage.
That process could take weeks or even all of October, but it does open the possibility that the vaccine candidate could be approved around Halloween.
While experts like Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, have called Pfizer’s announcement largely predictable, they’ve also urged people to let the research run its course.
With cases among children skyrocketing in recent months, some parents have begun urging pediatricians to give their children the jab early. Those kinds of requests are likely to increase with Pfizer’s announcement; however, officials have warned parents about acting too quickly.
“No one should really be freelancing — they should wait for the appropriate approval and recommendations to decide how best to manage their own children’s circumstances,” Bill Gruber, Pfizer’s senior vice president of vaccine clinical research and development, said according to The Washington Post.