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NCAA adds equipment to women’s NCAA Tournament weight room

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The NCAA responded overnight to criticism of the workout facility for women’s teams participating in the NCAA Tournament, with ESPN sharing video of added gym equipment in a ballroom turned weight room in San Antonio.

Late this week, photos circulated on social media that showed a men’s weight room in Indianapolis full of equipment and just one rack of weights available to the women. The tournaments are being played in condensed locations this season because of the coronavirus pandemic. Mention also has been made about the differences in the quality of food available at the sites, the “swag” given to players and the COVID-19 tests being administered.

South Carolina women’s basketball coach Dawn Staley blasted the NCAA and president Mark Emmert over the disparity between benefits given to women’s teams compared to men’s teams playing in the NCAA Tournament.

“There is no answer that the NCAA executive leadership led by Mark Emmert can give to explain the disparities,” Staley posted to Twitter on Friday night. “Mark Emmert and his team point blank chose to create them! The real issue is not the weights or the ‘swag’ bags. It’s that they did not think or do not think that the women’s players ‘deserve’ the same amenities of the men.”

Staley’s team is a No. 1 seed at the tournament, which begins Sunday.

NCAA leaders apologized earlier Friday and said issues about food and weight equipment were being addressed. Emmert said the differences in COVID-19 testing were due to different testing providers in Indiana and Texas.

To Staley, words weren’t enough.

“We cannot as leaders of young women allow Mark Emmert and his team to use us and our student-athletes at their convenience,” Staley, 50, wrote. “Every team here in San Antonio has earned and deserves at a minimum the same level of respect as the men. All the teams here dealt with the same issues as the men’s teams this season, yet their ‘reward’ is different.”

Staley is in her 13th season as coach of South Carolina, which won the national championship in 2017 and is in its ninth NCAA Tournament of her tenure. One of the most prominent players of her era, Staley was a six-time WNBA All-Star and won three Olympic gold medals. She was enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2013.

The Gamecocks (22-4) are the top seed in the Hemisfair Region and will play No. 16 Mercer (19-6) on Sunday.

–Field Level Media

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