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NCAA weight room discrepancy reflects chronic gender inequality

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The NCAA has a chronic problem with undervaluing women, writer and host Jemele Hill said Friday — and the latest controversy over weight room discrepancies puts a spotlight on that inequality.

“This has been a long standing, consistent problem when it comes to the lack of equity between men’s and women’s sports,” said Hill. “This should let everybody know who’s watching this and hearing about this story, that this was about the fact they didn’t think they were worth it to begin with.”

A Stanford University sports performance coach posted photos to Twitter Thursday revealing inequities between the women’s and men’s weight rooms.

The photos, posted by Ali Kershner, a coach with the Stanford women’s basketball and golf teams, showed the women’s weight room facility at the NCAA bubble in San Antonio — a rack of dumbbells and some yoga mats. The men’s weight room facility, at their NCAA bubble in Indianapolis. was decked out with a gym’s worth of equipment.

On a Zoom call Friday morning, NCAA Senior Vice President of Basketball Dan Gavitt vowed to do better.

“I apologize to the women’s student-athletes, coaches and committee for dropping the ball on the weight room issue in San Antonio, we’ll get it fixed as soon as possible,” Gavitt said.

The NCAA’s Vice President of Women’s Basketball Lynn Holzman said later Friday the organization is reviewing how to adjust square footage and provide more training opporunities.

Hill explained to CNBC’s “The News with Shepard Smith” on Friday that the rapid response was telling.

“When they got caught and this video went viral, suddenly within 24 hours they have a change of heart,” said Hill, who hosts the Spotify podcast “Jemele Hill is Unbothered.” “The money was always there. The money isn’t the issue. The issue is they don’t think these women are worth it.”

ESPN has a $500 million, 14-year deal through the 2023-24 academic year with the NCAA for expanded rights to 24 collegiate championships, including continued coverage of the women’s Division I basketball tournament. 

Hill told host Shepard Smith that, moving forward, the NCAA must “do everything that they can to show that they take women’s sports seriously, because this looks even worse, given the fact that the backdrop of this is that it’s Women’s History Month.” 

Representatives for the NCAA were not immediately available Friday to respond to Hill’s comments.

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