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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Sam Bee posterizes the NCAA over March Madness gender inequality

Samantha Bee
Samantha Bee
Screenshot: Full Frontal

Ah, March Madness, the most raucously exciting sign that this even-bleaker-than-usual winter is over, giving college basketball fans a chance to root for their alma maters, or at least the Cinderella team they dropped a whole lot of money on in their annual office pool. As noted sports not-enthusiast Samantha Bee noted on Wednesday’s mid-Madness Full Frontal, this absurdly lucrative yearly hoops spectacular is also time for regulating body the NCAA to screw over women college athletes when it comes to literally everything surrounding the big college basketball tournament.


Spurred by an online post by University Of Oregon player Sedona Prince (Go Ducks), Bee’s story showed how little the NCAA thinks of its thousands of female athletes, playing the clip of Prince showing the relative size and usefulness of weight training equipment for the school’s men’s (roomy, well-appointed) and women’s (a single rack of hand weights crammed into a corner) amenities. And don’t get her started on the mystery meat the women were provided for their pre-game bubble chow. 

“To be fair,” is a phrase Bee tosses out often, usually merely as setup to a particularly devastating comic doubling-down, and the Full Frontal host used it a lot on Wednesday. You know, because, to be fair, the NCAA sent out a sweaty, “sorry we got caught” statement saying that, because of the COVID bubble, all teams must relocate to new digs for the tourney, it was merely a matter of space considerations at the disparate temporary training facilities. Couple things there. As Prince’s video showed, the women’s gym had approximately an airplane hangar’s-worth of free space for some damned ellipticals and whatnot. And, as Bee explained, the fact that the male Ducks had their needs luxuriously met while the women were told to do some 5-pound wrist curls and smile indicates just what the NCAA thinks of its women athletes.

Bee went on from there to explain that Title IX, the federal civil rights ruling intended to redress the traditional, predictable imbalance in resource allocation between men and women in college athletics, um, doesn’t apply to the NCAA. Oh, and that the women’s teams aren’t allowed to use the expensively branded “March Madness” name anywhere. (Bee jokes that the women have to be content with the euphemistic slogan “March Hysteria.”) Or the recent revelation that the NCAA even cheaped out on player safety, in that it gave female tournament athletes less effective COVID testing than the men got, which seems like spite as well as attempted murder.

Or how about that women, while making up some 40 percent of all college athletes, are afforded between two and four percent of the TV coverage. At least, notes Bee, that finally edged out sports coverage of dog and horse-related sports—beginning in the 1990s. And, before anyone gets too complacent there, Bee added a side note about the controversy surrounding the 2015 Sports Illustrated “Sportsperson Of The Year” award going to tennis legend Serena Williams instead of one American Pharoah, whose name may clue in the sharpest among you to the irrefutable fact that the 2015 Triple Crown winner is a sports-horse, and not a sports-person.

But back to the NCAA, an organization, says Bee that is actually tirelessly dedicated—to help schools keep their sports revenue to themselves instead of sharing it with the athletes who generate it.” Since that august body’s only interests appear to be about that paper (with a generous helping of sexism on the side), Bee noted that the burgeoning-despite-everything popularity of women’s sports at least makes it worth the NCAA’s while financially. “But if schools in the NCAA don’t want to treat women equally because it’s the right thing to do,” Bee concluded, appealing to greed if not seemingly nonexistent decency, “they should at least do it because it would be good business.”

Contributor, The A.V. Club. Danny Peary's Cult Movies books are mostly to blame.