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Adia Barnes, Arizona players sound off on disparities at men’s and women’s NCAA Tournaments

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Arizona v Oregon Photo by Soobum Im/Getty Images

After Adia Barnes signed a contract extension on Thursday, she said in a press conference that it “means the world” to her because it shows the University of Arizona’s commitment to women’s basketball.

She conducted the interview from her hotel room at the NCAA Tournament, where the commitment to the sport has been in question. The NCAA has been blasted on social media for some disturbing disparities at the men’s and women’s tournaments.

Oregon women’s basketball player Sedona Prince tweeted a video Thursday that pointed out that the men have an Olympic-sized weight room in Indianapolis while the women have one small weight tree in San Antonio.

The NCAA released a statement saying a lack of space was the reason for the disparity but Prince’s video disputed that by showing plenty of empty area right where the weights were set up.

Barnes said it’s “not acceptable.”

“They addressed it and put out a statement, I just saw it after practice, I was pretty surprised,” she said. “Someone showed me and I was like, ‘wow’, because I never thought the disparity today would be so large. But I think that to me there was no thought into that and I don’t think there should be such a big disparity. The fact is, when I look around the convention center, where we just left, there’s plenty of room. And there’s plenty of open areas, which I’ve walked through plenty of them. So I think that’s just not acceptable. If someone drops the ball, it’s fine. We can fix it. So, nothing to do about it now but fix it because that’s just not right. And I think that we have a long way to go.”

There have been other notable differences at the tournaments such as the food quality, gift bags and even COVID-19 testing methods. The men’s tournament is using PCR tests while the women are using less-accurate antigen tests.

While Barnes would prefer the focus be on the basketball side of the tournament—“there’s so many positives,” she said—she sees a silver lining to all of this.

“The fact that people care enough to tweet about it, for it to be an issue, is very important,” she said. “Because five years ago this would have been the same situation, no one would have said anything about it. So it does it have to change? Absolutely. I was embarrassed when I saw it, that’s why I tweeted it yesterday. It’s not okay. But I think that there’s a lot of things that aren’t okay and I’ve realized that being a mom and being on lockdown here with a baby, there’s just a lot of things that have to change but it takes people like me that were pro players, were on both sides, and being a voice for things to change. But yeah, it’s not acceptable.”

Prince’s video has garnered over 10 million reviews and has been boosted by NBA stars like Steph Curry and C.J. McCollum. Arizona forward Sam Thomas is glad that so many people on social media have stepped forward to put pressure on the NCAA but thinks fans can do more to support women’s basketball.

“I mean, you can’t deny the fact that there’s a difference whether people want to complain and say it’s about money or anything else like that, there’s a difference and that’s just the bottom line,” Thomas said. “And for many years there’s been a difference between men and women’s stuff, especially when it comes to sports. And so I know social media is getting a lot of attention on it and people are showing their support and everything and making all these comments, but it’s easy to talk behind the screen. I think if people actually want to support us and help make a difference, then they have to support us and actually watch our games, talk about us outside of everything that’s happening that’s unfair to us. Talk about how great women’s basketball is, talk about anything positive about women’s basketball because I think that’s honestly at the end of day what’s going to make a difference.”

Thomas was happy to hear that Dick’s Sporting Goods is shipping loads of workout equipment to San Antonio to give the women the weight room they believe they deserve.

“It’s great to know the power of social media,” she said. “I know a lot of famous people, men and women, are tweeting out about it, so I think that obviously helps a lot. I mean, as women, we need help from everyone. We can’t do this on our own as much as we would like to. We need men, we need other strong women to help lead this and make equality actually happen. So it’s actually really exciting to hear about that.”