Lawmakers Slam NCAA for Failing to Address Disparity in Men’s and Women’s Sports
BY ROSS DELLENGER
WASHINGTON — Three congressional lawmakers sent a letter to NCAA president Mark Emmert on Monday, lambasting him for failing to take meaningful steps to ensure gender equity in college sports and suggesting his association is in violation of Title IX.
Representatives Carolyn B. Maloney (D–N.Y.), Jackie Speier (D–Calif.) and Mikie Sherrill (D–N.J.) say the NCAA has made “inadequate progress” in addressing the disparate treatment of men and women athletes a year after the topic took center stage during the NCAA women’s basketball tournament.
In the six-page letter, the U.S. House members criticize Emmert for his failure in implementing key recommendations from an external review that was sparked by exposed disparities between the men’s and women’s basketball tournaments.
“The shortcomings at the women’s basketball tournament last year have been well-documented and extensively covered,” the NCAA said Tuesday in an emailed statement to SI. “Although our work is not done, we are focused on the many improvements made since then that provide students across all our championships with a lifelong memorable experience.”
SI obtained a copy of the letter and several other documents, including internal emails from NCAA leaders that reveal how the association handled the scrutiny after women athletes took to social media to report differences between what men’s and women’s tournament participants were being provided in terms of their weight rooms, gifts and meals. The NCAA supplied the emails after lawmakers requested them in July.
The emails outline NCAA leaders’ correspondence over requests from sponsors and non-sponsors wanting to donate meals and gift cards to women basketball players at the tournament in San Antonio. According to the emails, NCAA officials rebuffed some of the offers, including one from Chiney Ogwumike, a player for the Los Angeles Sparks and ESPN basketball analyst who scolded the NCAA last March amid the gender equity issues.
Ogwumike offered to donate DoorDash gift cards to each of the 64 tournament teams, but the NCAA denied the offer because UberEats, a direct competitor of DoorDash, was an NCAA corporate sponsor.
The emails paint a frantic picture within the association in the hours after the social media storm erupted and in the wake of the negative attention. Sponsors contacted NCAA officials and were “really upset with the situation and wanting to help,” NCAA director of championship engagement Ellen Lucey wrote in an email to her colleagues on March 19, 2021.
The NCAA originally declined all donation requests until eventually agreeing on offers from corporate sponsors, such as Wendy’s, Buffalo Wild Wings and Pizza Hut, to supply food to women athletes in a similar way that those companies were feeding men’s players at their tournament in Indianapolis.
Capital One, one of the NCAA’s primary sponsors, was especially concerned. The company offered to help with food costs and wanted assurances from NCAA leaders that differences between the two events were resolved. During a phone call with Lucey, an unnamed Capital One executive asked her, “We will not continue to see or hear about issues?”