The NCAA hired an outside law firm amid criticism over inequities between its men’s and women’s basketball tournaments spanning training facilities, gifts for players and even COVID-19 tests.
Kaplan Hecker & Fink LLP will evaluate the NCAA’s practices and policies, the organization announced Thursday. The law firm, based in New York, will also provide recommendations. NCAA officials expect a preliminary assessment late in April and a final report in the summer after all championships have finished.
Early blowback over unequal treatment of the men’s and women’s players built around weight-training facilities. Then the NCAA acknowledged that men were being given PCR tests for COVID-19, which are considered the gold standard, while women were being given less sensitive and less accurate antigen tests.
In recent days, observers noted that courts in the women’s tournament don’t bear the same well-known “March Madness” trademark emblazoned across the center of men’s courts. Instead, the words “Women’s Basketball” stretch across center court, next to the NCAA logo. That branding difference is also reflected in the NCAA’s Twitter accounts for men’s and women’s basketball.
Members of Congress led by U.S. Representative Mikie Sherrill, a Democrat from New Jersey, wrote to the NCAA’s president, Mark Emmert, with a list of questions about the reported disparities.
“We are writing to share our deep concerns regarding the unequal treatment of the women’s and men’s basketball teams during the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s (NCAA) Division One championship tournament and ask that you fully address the disparities and seek to review all other championship competitions to ensure that they adhere to the gender equity principles of Title IX in affording women athletes fair and equal treatment,” they wrote.
In a statement announcing the law firm’s review, Emmert said the NCAA will “aggressively address material and impactful differences” between men’s and women’s championships.
“While many of the operational issues identified have been resolved, we must continue to make sure we are doing all we can to support gender equity in sports,” Emmert’s statement said. “As part of this effort, we are evaluating the current and previous resource allocation to each championship, so we have a clear understanding of costs, spend and revenue.”