STArt Now Blog
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Equality in basketball
Women’s basketball faces inequalities compared to their male counterparts on all playing levels of basketball. Gender inequality in women's basketball has occurred for a few decades now.
WNBA players' average salary during the 2019-2020 season was less than $80,000 while the NBA average salary was $7.4 million.
Sedona Prince caught the eyes of the nation during last year's March Madness tournament when she exposed the NCAA for the lack of fair treatment women were receiving. Prince posted a video on the social media platform, TikTok, showcasing the difference in weight room sizes, meals, and gear the players received.
We see this filter down to our own local schools. Flagler College is a subsequent victim to gender inequality in basketball.
The women’s basketball team at Flagler College experiences a minuscule locker room, equipment differences, travel mistreatment, scarce promotion and low fan attendance. These inequalities affect the lives of these players on and off the court in both a mental and physical capacity.
Players for the women’s team feel their locker room is clustered and cramped, making their experience uncomfortable. On the contrary, according to fans and players, the men's basketball team has what some might refer to as a luxurious feel including a gaming system, massage chairs and an ample amount of space in their locker room.
The women's basketball team suffers on a sartorial level as well. Members discussed that the men have newer practice jerseys than they do. Taylor Gardner, a point guard wears number 5 for the Flagler Saints women's basketball team and brought to attention the conditions of the practice jerseys they wear.
“I guess jerseys would be another thing, too. They have newer jerseys, and I just got here so I’m not sure but our practice jerseys seem like they’re very old,” Gardener said.
Traveling seems to be strongly controversial. Flagler female basketball players aren’t satisfied with their unequal treatment while traveling for games.
“They get hotels every time they travel. They go the day before every time they travel. And there will be some times where we have to leave the day of because we can’t afford a hotel. So we have to… stay on a bus for five hours and then play a game that same day,” Gardner said.
Women’s basketball suffers in the marketing realm as well and is simply not promoted as much as the men's games. This isn’t just on a regional and Flagler level, but on a coinciding national level. Sue Bird, a Seattle Storm point guard in the WNBA, discussed promotion equity. Bird doesn’t think they should be paid the same as the NBA. People immediately jump to the conclusion that female basketball players just want money when they call for equality, but what they really want is fair promotion.
“We're just like, 'Could I get the same media coverage, and the corporate sponsor looks, and things like that?,” Bird said while discussing the unequal coverage women's games receive.
The WNBA has to build what they do without fair media coverage. Once they are more successful as a business the money will be received, or so that is what many believe.
Fan attendance has been discussed in the WNBA at great length, but also at Flagler College. The men's basketball games at Flagler are usually packed while the women's games have a small attendance rate. Flagler women's basketball players are affected by the audience differences.
Benge thinks fans can do more to fix the disparities the women's team faces against their male counterparts.
“I would say notice the differences. When fans come you can even see the fan count difference,” Benge said. “People start showing up fourth-quarter cause they know the boys play after us and I guess people who actually care, they could notice that and say something.”
Family members of the Flagler College women's basketball players have noticed inequality issues. Gardner's sister was able to attend a game this season and was shocked when she arrived at the game.
“The first thing she said to me when I sat down to watch the boy’s game with her was, ‘What the heck does nobody notice how this is so much more hype than yours,'” Gardner said. “She was like, ‘Why are there so many more people here?’ I was trying to explain to her that they just receive more attention and she said we need to do something.”
Some people may argue that the women's team needs to win more and bring in more revenue in order to have some of the privileges and respect that the men's team has but this has turned into monetary favoritism. The men's team has had equipment donated to them that the women didn’t receive.
Flagler College women's basketball head coach Mo Smith talked about where some of the extra equipment came from.
“The massage chairs you reference were also donated items,” Smith said.
Women’s basketball can’t grow in popularity without receiving equal opportunities and treatment regardless if they are winning or not.
Jazzy Mathis, a guard and number 5 for the Saints feels undervalued compared to her male counterparts.
“I feel like they’re looked at as just better than us. Even I remember when we were winning a lot more than they were, it was always about their team, it’s always about them. So, I feel like the focus is always on them. Even since madness, I don’t know if you remember that like literally, we were just hiding behind them. It was literally all about them. We were just showing up, and as soon as our coach started talking everybody left. So that’s just kinda disrespectful,” Mathis said.
Women’s basketball has to continue to take steps if they want to end inequality. Flagler as a community needs to show up and support female athletes.
“We practice the same amount of hours as the boys, play the same amount of games. We may not win as much but we're still putting in the effort, the same amount of effort as they are,” Benge said. “It's not just supporting the guys' team, it's supporting the school, the whole program. So if you come to support the guys, you should want to come support the girls too.”
Gabby alfveby, author
Current Flagler College student, writer, and athlete. gabby is also the journalist intern for STArt Now's partner, Narrow Magazine
Kathryn Hennessy, photographer
Kathryn is a current Flagler College student and freelance photographer as well as Narrow Magazines additional intern