San Antonio got caught up in embarrassing gender inequality in US sports


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It is extremely pathetic that in 2021 women athletes, teams and leagues are still struggling to achieve a minimum of justice with their male counterparts. This embarrassing demonstration of inequality is taking place in San Antonio at the Henry B. González Convention Center.

City officials and executives at San Antonio Sports should have known better if the planning had unfolded before the tournament. San Antonio should never have allowed the 64 visiting college teams to be so blatantly disregarded. You should have called the NCAA tournament organizers immediately as soon as it turned out that this was an inadequate investment for women’s teams.

Athletes and their coaches are no longer satisfied with enduring second-hand treatment like this from an NCAA run by unsuspecting executives who earn million dollar salaries, who promise reform, and do little. The women, now housed in a bubble of hotels in downtown San Antonio, have made their case convincing on social media, starting with the tweet from University of Oregon gamer Sabrina Ionescu of a single rack of weights and shows a couple of yoga mats set aside in a small room for the women. In contrast to the specially built, state-of-the-art training facility, the men’s team in Indianapolis made it available.

In today’s 24/7 news environment, social media protests caught fire and quickly spread to mainstream media.

NCAA officials, leaving excuses like jet contrails, hastily arranged an upgraded weight room at the convention center, but it still pales next to the men’s facility in Indianapolis. And the inequalities go much deeper from the quality of the meals and other amenities the women’s teams receive. One amazing difference made by the women’s teams is the superior quality of the coronavirus tests that are carried out on the men on a daily basis compared to the test used here to screen the players, coaches and team officials.

In particular, the financial payouts to men’s teams versus the failure to reward women based on revenue from ticket sales and broadcasting deals alike should disqualify the NCAA’s nonprofit status behind which it is hiding.

If you’re not a basketball fan, you might not know that the 2021 NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament will be entirely in and around San Antonio because of the pandemic. March Madness starts here on Sunday. The games last until the final of the championship on April 4th. The 2021 men’s basketball tournament, which is already taking place in Indianapolis, will be held in a single city for the same reason.

San Antonio and Indianapolis share many traits, particularly their passion and competition for major sporting events and tournaments. In this case, the playgrounds in the two cities are not on the same level.

If the respective tournaments were automobiles, the men would drive to the Games in shiny new Cadillac Escalades, with the women squeezing into the former kias.

Critics will quickly get started on how the quality of men’s gaming is superior to their female counterparts. That ignores the incredibly fast growing fan base for women in this and other sports. The macho couch potato lobby will also fail to mention a century of organized sport and American culture and politics that discouraged women from adolescence from participating in organized sports. Even those who insisted did so without equal opportunity or access to coaching, facilities, events, funding, marketing, or media.

It is a largely untreated virus in all aspects of organized sport, not just at the college level.

In 2015, Alamodome games were played in San Antonio with the US men’s national soccer team against Mexico and the US women’s national soccer team against Trinidad y Tobago.

A lackluster US men’s team barely made it out of the group game and was eliminated in the round of 16 at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil against Belgium. In April 2015 the team still managed to attract a record number of 64,369 fans to the Alamodome in a “friendly” match against Mexico covered by me, in which the majority attracted more than just a few visitors and wrapped in white flags. The heavily promoted game sold out in February.

Later in 2015, it was the women’s national team that played against Trinidad y Tobago at the Alamodome. The team had just won the 2015 Women’s World Cup in Canada and humiliated Japan 5-2 in a breathtaking game in which the US women scored four goals in the first 15 minutes and eventually became the first team to win three World Cups. As I wrote at the time, there seemed to be more goals than fans that day at the Alamodome. The contestants were treated to a brilliant second-half performance by striker Christen Press, scoring a hat-trick – three goals – in 23 minutes, and ultimately giving the US women a 6-0 win.

That night was the opportunity for San Antonio to see the most successful women’s soccer team in the history of the sport, athletes who cleverly used their international fame to demand fair pay and treatment in their sport and beyond.

Young girls applaud as players on the U.S. women’s team and are announced ahead of a 2015 game against Trinidad y Tobago. Photo credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

The poorly promoted game drew an embarrassingly small crowd of 10,690 fans. The organizers could have put together tickets for every girl downtown with a dream, but instead the women’s team played in a largely empty stadium.

Oh yes, the 2019 Women’s World Cup in France? The US team defended their title with a 2-0 win against a tough Dutch team and became four-time champions.

San Antonio cannot fix the bad state in college and professional sports for women, but it may be the first city to declare that there will be no more inequality of treatment for athletes and teams. The city should continue to compete for any event and tournament that is looking for a great venue for its games. However, one competitive advantage that we can offer in the future is: organizers must treat women athletes with the same respect and the same resources that they offer men.

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