March Madness was only hours old and already the NCAA was dealing with quite the weighty issue.
Sequestered with her Ducks teammates at the women's site in San Antonio, Oregon forward Sedona Prince posted a TikTok highlighting the inequities in the organization's tournaments for men's and women's basketball.
In a 38-second clip, the 20-year-old sophomore shared footage of the men's tricked out weight room at their Indianapolis bubble and then the women's: A rack of 12 dumbbells and a stack of yoga mats that would feel inadequate in a hotel gym, much less a spot where some 900 college athletes were expected to prep for the biggest tournament of their lives. (Happy Women's History Month, ladies!)
"I was a little disappointed," Prince admitted to CNN. "Me and the rest of my team we're like, 'C'mon, you know, we deserve more than this. We lift more than this.' It was surprising. It was shocking that's all that we got."
Within 48 hours—after brands like Dick's Sporting Goods, Tonal and Anytime Fitness and millions of outraged fans such as Megan Rapinoe, Steph Curry and Vanessa Bryant voiced their displeasure—benches, free weights, more dumbbells and equipment were brought in.
Which is good, because as Oregon's freshman guard Sydney Parrish shared in an Instagram Live video for TOGETHXR—a platform recently launched by Alex Morgan, Sue Bird, Chloe Kim and Simone Manuel to amplify the stories of female athletes—"We lift just as much as the men do, it's part of our daily routine."
And if the NCAA simply hadn't been able to get their hands on their usual equipment, they would have made it work. "If it was the same as the men, we're perfectly fine. No big deal," she explained. "But it's that there's such a big difference."
In other words, it'd be nice if female athletes didn't have to do so much heavy lifting to make s--t happen.
It's an all too familiar story for Morgan, who recently told E! News she's continuously floored by how little investment is made in women's sports. Even when the U.S. team returned to the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup as defending champs and overwhelming favorites, Morgan noted, "I was just shocked at the under preparation."
Even more appalling to the soccer icon, though, is how much more work a woman has to put in to get even a fraction of the pay her male counterparts might receive.
"Every female athlete today needs to be the best at doing interviews, needs to carry herself in the best way to get appearance and sponsorships and companies that want to work with her, needs to always put a smile on her face," Morgan explained of the myriad gigs she and her contemporaries are forced to juggle.
And it's not just about the Benjamins, notes her fellow USWNT member Megan Rapinoe.
"We are always having to qualify our accomplishments," she explained to Glamour. "We always have to be like: Yes, we won, and we're inspiring a generation, and we're touring the country, and we're social activists, and we're really marketable, and, and, and!"
And yet they just keep on killing it, doing all of the above while giving engaging interviews, tending to various side hustles and changing the game for the generations that will follow.
As one of the most popular soccer players in the world, Rapinoe feels it's her responsibility to keep kicking over barriers. "I think it comes a little bit with the territory," she recently told E!. "It's all with the focus of making the world a better place."
That sound you hear? It's us cheering at the top of our lungs.