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Maloney, Speier, and Sherrill Call on NCAA to Take Action to Address Gender Inequities Following Release of New Report

Washington, D.C. (August 3, 2021)—Today, Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, Chairwoman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, senior Committee Member and Co-Chair of the Democratic Women’s Caucus Rep. Jackie Speier, and Rep. Mikie Sherrill, issued the following statement after the release of a gender equity review commissioned by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) for its women’s and men’s basketball championship programs:

“Today’s damning report details glaring disparities in NCAA’s treatment of men’s and women’s intercollegiate athletics.  The report’s findings will come as no surprise to the thousands of student-athletes and coaches who have experienced NCAA’s gender-based discrimination.”

“This is just the latest review to find grievous gender inequities within NCAA athletics.  We are releasing documents showing that for decades, NCAA has known about these issues and has ignored recommendations similar to those issued today.  NCAA must show its commitment to gender equity with actions—not just words.  We will continue to conduct oversight to ensure NCAA undertakes strong, swift, and meaningful steps to address its longstanding failures.”

“We strongly encourage those with relevant information about NCAA’s disparate gender practices, including administrators, coaches, and student-athletes, to contact the Committee to share their experiences.”

According to the report, women athletes have been afforded athletic experiences that were “markedly different from and inferior to” those of their male counterparts as the result of “underlying, systemic gender equity issues at the NCAA.”  These issues “stem from the structure and systems of the NCAA itself, which are designed to maximize the value of and support to the Division I Men’s Basketball Championship as the primary source of funding for the NCAA and its membership.” 

The report also found:  “Many of the issues identified in this review—and some of the recommendations put forward—are not new.  Efforts to resolve gender equity issues in the NCAA have percolated at various times over the past 20 years or more.”

Documents obtained by the Oversight Committee show this is at least the fifth review of NCAA’s gender inequities since 1992.  The documents reveal striking similarities between today’s findings and recommendations and numerous reports commissioned by NCAA over the last three decades.  For example:

  • In 1992, NCAA established a Gender Equity Task Force, comprised of university officials, student-athletes, and college administrators, to review the status of women in intercollegiate athletics and the gender equity performance of the Association and its members.  In its inaugural report, the task force warned:  “If, having recognized and documented that our members have neither achieved the spirit of gender equity nor complied with the letter of the law, we fail to act to ameliorate those conditions, others will be justified in finding means to do so.”  Soon after the report was issued, the task force was disbanded.
  • Nearly a decade later, NCAA’s 2005-2006 Gender Equity Report found:  “In recent years, few if any real gains have been measured in the proportion of resources allocated to women’s collegiate sports.”
  • In a 2014 letter to NCAA President Mark Emmert, members of the original Gender Equity Task Force echoed many of the same concerns:  “As in 1993, the task force members are concerned that progress and financial support for women athletes and women’s athletics has slowed greatly, and that women are not advancing in leadership roles in our member institutions.  Further, the task force emphasized that gender equity must be a priority for the Association’s endeavors, which particularly calls for presidential and NCAA national office leadership.”  The members also issued a report which highlighted failures to address gender equity issues in NCAA’s leadership and rules, stating:  “There also does not seem to be a focus on gender equity in the current discussions about new NCAA governance structures.”  In holding its members accountable for performance on gender equity issues, the report found that NCAA should require “institutions, conferences, and the NCAA to publish annual gender equity reports” using a Gender Equity Performance Rating.  As a result, in 2015, the NCAA re-established the Gender Equity Task Force. 
  • In 2017, the reconstituted Gender Equity Task Force stated, “Forty-five years after the passage of Title IX, the equity gaps have not been closed and have stalled out in the past 15 years.”

Nearly thirty years after NCAA’s initial gender equity review, today’s report echoes these previous findings and recommendations:

  • Today’s report acknowledges that NCAA has previously engaged in both internal and external efforts to review gender equity many times, noting that “all too often, the proposed reforms that came out of these efforts ended up doing no more than sitting on a shelf.”  The report concludes, “NCAA has not lived up to its stated commitment to ‘diversity, inclusion and gender equity among its student-athletes, coaches and administrators.’”
     
  • For Division I basketball, the report notes that “in both practice and perception, women’s basketball essentially reports to and is subordinate to men’s basketball,” and “the resources allocated to men’s and women’s basketball differ significantly, even taking into account the differences in the size of the tournaments.”
  • The report also highlights how NCAA’s longstanding lack of investment in women’s athletics has perpetuated gender inequities, particularly in its basketball programs, where large disparities in revenue distribution, media contracts, and marketing practices send “a very clear and loud message to student-athletes, conferences, and schools about which sports matter and which sports do not.” 
  • The report recommends that NCAA “ensure progress on gender equity by requiring there to be transparency and accountability,” including by conducting an “annual public assessment of the NCAA’s progress in implementing the recommendations set forth in this report.”

On March 25, 2021, Rep. Sherrill led 37 Members of Congress in sending a letter to NCAA President Mark Emmert expressing deep concerns and seeking more information about gender disparities in this year’s NCAA championship tournaments.

On July 6, 2021, Chairwoman Maloney and Representatives Speier and Sherrill sent a letter to NCAA requesting documents and information on NCAA’s disparate treatment of men’s and women’s sporting events and the Association’s ongoing reviews of gender equity across its championship programs.

The Members asked for documents relating to NCAA’s budgets and operations, media contracts, and promotional efforts for the 2021 tournament events.  They also requested a briefing from NCAA, as well as additional information about the Association’s prior gender equity assessments and any actions taken in response.

Anyone with relevant information, including administrators, coaches, and student-athletes, are encouraged to contact the Committee.

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