Maloney, Speier, and Sherrill Release New Documents Highlighting Pervasive Gender Disparities in NCAA Sports
Washington, D.C. (March 15, 2022)—Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, Chairwoman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, Committee Member and Co-Chair of the Democratic Women’s Caucus Rep. Jackie Speier, and Rep. Mikie Sherrill, sent a letter to National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) President Mark Emmert urging him to swiftly implement measures to advance gender equity in NCAA-administered sports programs, after documents obtained by the Committee confirmed pervasive inequities in those programs.
“We write regarding the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s (NCAA) inadequate progress in addressing historically disparate treatment of men and women student athletes. Despite a directive to ‘act urgently to address any organizational issues’ that contribute to gender inequity within NCAA championship tournaments, you have failed to take meaningful steps to correct deficiencies identified by the Committee and by an outside review, and you have failed to ensure gender equity across NCAA’s athletic programs. Information obtained by the Committee shows that, as of February, the NCAA still has not addressed key recommendations from NCAA’s external review, raising doubts about your commitment to gender equity in college athletics,” the Members wrote.
Following the public exposure of systemic gender inequities during the 2021 March Madness championships, NCAA commissioned an outside review by the law firm Kaplan Hecker and Fink LLP (Kaplan) to examine gender equity across NCAA programs. Following its investigation, Kaplan released two reports, which included 39 recommendations. Although NCAA has taken some short-term steps to address inequities in collegiate sports, it has been slow to commit to or fully implement many of Kaplan’s recommendations.
According to internal information provided to the Committee, the NCAA has not only failed to implement key recommendations identified by Kaplan, but has failed to even commit to implementing recommendations that would immediately improve longstanding structural inequities within the organization.
“NCAA’s lackluster response to Kaplan’s recommendations is particularly concerning given that documents previously released by the Committee show that NCAA ignored similar recommendations from at least four prior reviews over the last thirty years,” the Members continued.
Internal NCAA documents obtained by the Committee confirm and provide additional detail on the long-term disparities in investments between women’s and men’s NCAA basketball programs. A summary of Division I men’s and women’s basketball budgets obtained by the Committee reveals that for eight years, beginning in Fiscal Year 2013-2014, the men’s Division I basketball budget was more than twice the size of the women’s basketball budget. An internal email accompanying the budget noted that “the split [between the men’s budget and the women’s budget] is consistently 70% / 30% (plus or minus one percent here or there).”
Internal NCAA communications obtained by the Committee also shed light on the organization’s response to complaints that arose during the 2021 Division I basketball tournaments, including complaints that the women’s basketball teams did not have adequate food for players and staff. For example:
- Following complaints by women’s basketball players and coaches that they had received pre-packaged meals containing less food, of a lower quality and variety, compared to the buffet service available to the men’s basketball players and coaches, NCAA officials decided to decline an offer from Los Angeles Sparks player Chiney Ogwumike to provide DoorDash gift cards to the 64 teams competing in the women’s tournament to avoid upsetting corporate partners.
- On March 19, 2021, Ellen Lucey, Director of Championship Engagement at NCAA, wrote, “All day I have fielded calls from partners really upset with the situation and wanting to help. We have declined them all.” Ms. Lucey continued, “I hate to think we have a non-partner come in to save the day.” Ms. Lucey acknowledged that NCAA had “declined offers before the tournament in a number of areas.” She also noted that NCAA had distributed gift bags provided by corporate sponsor Unilever “differently” among the men’s and women’s teams. She wrote: “Sorry I failed to mention Unilever, who sent the same items as to the men but we have chosen to distribute differently.” She continued, “They are [sic] feel great pressure and are scrambling to send additional gift bags to everyone.”
- On March 20, 2021, Ms. Lucey reiterated her position that NCAA should reject the DoorDash offer, noting, “[W]e need to be cautious accepting offers for donations when we have declined so many CCP [Corporate Champions and Partners] offers.” Later that same day, the Associate Director of Championships and Alliances, Broadcast Services dismissed the DoorDash offer as “ambush marketing.”
- In response to the outcry, Ms. Lucey suggested NCAA “engage CCP’s in the solve,” noting, “We can put together an ask and come up with a mutually beneficial solution.” She later circulated a list of proposed donations and services from several corporate partners, including Wendy’s, Pizza Hut, POWERADE, and AT&T.
Click here to read the letter to NCAA President Emmert.