- 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)
Medical Workers Sign Letter Urging Spotify to Combat Misinformation, Citing Joe Rogan
The letter accused Spotify of “enabling its hosted media to damage public trust in scientific research.”
Doctors and Medical Professionals Sign Letter to Spotify
A group of 270 doctors, scientists, and other medical workers signed an open letter to Spotify this week urging the audio platform to implement a misinformation policy, specifically citing false claims made on the “Joe Rogan Experience” podcast.
Rogan has faced no shortage of backlash over the last year for promoting vaccine misinformation on his show, which airs exclusively on Spotify. Most recently, he invited Dr. Robert Malone on a Dec. 31 episode that has since been widely criticized by health experts.
Dr. Malone was banned from Twitter for promoting COVID-19 misinformation. According to the medical experts who signed the letter, he “used the JRE platform to further promote numerous baseless claims, including several falsehoods about COVID-19 vaccines and an unfounded theory that societal leaders have ‘hypnotized’ the public.”
“Notably, Dr. Malone is one of two recent JRE guests who has compared pandemic policies to the Holocaust,” the letter continued. “These actions are not only objectionable and offensive, but also medically and culturally dangerous.”
Joe Rogan’s History of COVID-19 Misinformation
Rogan sparked swift criticism himself in the spring of 2021 when he discouraged young people from taking the COVID-19 vaccine. He also falsely equated mRNA vaccines to “gene therapy” and incorrectly stated that vaccines cause super mutations of the virus. He took ivermectin after testing positive for the virus in September, despite the fact that the drug is not approved as a treatment for COVID.
“By allowing the propagation of false and societally harmful assertions, Spotify is enabling its hosted media to damage public trust in scientific research and sow doubt in the credibility of data-driven guidance offered by medical professionals,” the doctors and medical workers wrote.
“We are calling on Spotify to take action against the mass-misinformation events which continue to occur on its platform,” they continued. “With an estimated 11 million listeners per episode, JRE is the world’s largest podcast and has tremendous influence. Though Spotify has a responsibility to mitigate the spread of misinformation on its platform, the company presently has no misinformation policy.”
Rolling Stone was the first outlet to report on the letter from the medical professionals. Dr. Katrine Wallace, an epidemiologist at the University of Illinois Chicago, was among the signees. She told the magazine that Rogan is “a menace to public health.”
“These are fringe ideas not backed in science, and having it on a huge platform makes it seem there are two sides to this issue,” she said. “And there are really not.”
Spotify had not responded to the letter as of Thursday.
See what others are saying: (Rolling Stone) (Deadline) (Insider)
Data Shows Omicron May be Peaking in the U.S.
In some cities that were first hit by the surge, new cases are starting to flatten and decline.
New Cases Flattening
After weeks of recording-breaking cases driven by the highly infectious omicron variant, public health officials say that new COVID infections seem to be slowing in the parts of the country that were hit the hardest earlier on.
Following a more than twentyfold rise in December, cases in New York City have flattened out in recent days.
New infections have even begun to fall slightly in some states, like Maryland and New Jersey. In Boston, the levels of COVID in wastewater — which has been a top indicator of case trends in the past — have dropped by nearly 40% since the first of the year.
Overall, federal data has shown a steep decline in COVID-related emergency room visits in the Northeast, and the rest of the country appears to be following a similar track.
Data from other countries signals the potential for a steep decline in cases following the swift and unprecedented surge.
According to figures from South Africa, where the variant was first detected, cases rose at an incredibly shocking rate for about a month but peaked quickly in mid-December. Since then, new infections have plummeted by around 70%.
In the U.K., which has typically been a map for how U.S. cases will trend, infections are also beginning to fall after peaking around New Year’s and then flattening for about a week.
Despite these recent trends, experts say it is still too early to say if cases in the U.S. will decline as rapidly as they did in South Africa and the parts of the U.K. that were first hit.
While new infections may seem to be peaking in the cities that saw the first surges, caseloads continue to climb in most parts of the country.
Meanwhile, hospitals are overwhelmed and health resources are still strained because of the high volume of cases hitting all at once.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Washington Post) (The Wall Street Journal)
COVID-Driven School Closures Top Record Highs, But Many Remain Open
While some districts have implemented protective measures, many teachers say they fall short.
Schools Respond to Omicron Surge
U.S. COVID cases, driven by the omicron variant, are continuously topping new record highs, posing difficult questions for schools resuming after winter break.
According to Burbio, a data firm that tracks school closures, at least 5,409 public schools canceled classes or moved to remote learning by the end of last week due to COVID — more than triple the number at the end of December.
That is still only a fraction of the nation’s 130,000 schools, and many of the biggest school districts in the country are still insisting that students come into the classroom.
Los Angeles, which is home to the second-biggest district, is requiring that students at least test negative before they return to school this week.
In the biggest district of New York City, classes have already resumed following winter break. Although the city has said it will double random tests and send home more kits, students were not required to provide negative results.
Teachers Protest In-Person Learning
Teachers in other major districts have protested the local government’s decisions to stay open.
One of the most closely watched battles is in Chicago, where students on Monday missed their fourth consecutive day of school due to a feud between the Chicago Teachers Union and Mayor Lori Lightfoot (D).
Last week, the union voted to return to remote learning in defiance of a city-wide order mandating they teach in-person, citing inadequate COVID-19 protections. Lightfoot claimed the conditions were fine and that students were safe, despite record surges, instead opting to cancel classes altogether while the fight plays out.
On Sunday, the union said it was “still far apart” from making any kind of agreement with public school officials after Lightfoot rejected their demands.
Lightfoot, for her part, has said she remains “hopeful” a deal could be reached, but she also stirred up the union by accusing teachers of staging an “illegal walkout” and claiming they “abandoned their posts and they abandoned kids and their families.”
Meanwhile, teachers in other school districts have begun to emulate the tactics in Chicago.
On Friday, teachers in Oakland, California staged a “sick-out,” promoting 12 schools serving thousands of students to close.