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April 6, 2024

2021 March Madness Controversy

Every year every collegiate basketball athlete and every team has a main goal in mind. You might be wondering what goal is this. Every year their goal is to win their conference championship, but what they look forward to the most is punching their ticket to the NCAA  (National Collegiate Athletic Association) March Madness Tournament and winning it all. What I mean by “punching their ticket” is that when either team wins their conference in the conference tournament the team that won automatically gets to participate in the NCAA March Madness tournament, therefore this term is used to emphasize that the team won and will be participating in the tournament. The 2021 NCAA March Madness Tournament was no different, it was considered to be a Covid season due to the COVID-19 virus that was currently happening around the world. During this time in the tournament, there were no fans at the arena, all the players and coaching staff had to wear face masks to try and prevent the spread of Covid-19 during the tournament. All the teams who made it to the tournament were able to play.

Photograph to the left is the Mens March Madness 2021 swag bags | Photograph to the right is the Womens March Madness 2021 swag bags | March 18, 2021, | Photograph taken by Brisa Mendoza | Photos taken by Chloe Pavlech, Sedona Prince, Dan Henry, and Ali Kershner | Courtesy of X

Both men’s and women’s March Madness basketball games were being held in different states and select cities. Typically since this tournament is a very well-known tournament and very difficult to get a bid to play when the teams arrive in their designated city or state, the teams would receive a thing called “swag bags.” These “swag bags” consisted of merchandise and goodies that had the March Madness logo represented. The tournament would give these “swag bags” to teams as congratulations for making it to and participating in the tournament. Although the NCAA March Madness would give out these “swag bags” to both the men and women the women were receiving different items. The men were receiving a lot more merchandise that where branded with the March Madness logo and other items. Depending on where every team was located, there would be a gym in that facility for the teams to use. Since COVID-19 was prevalent, all the gym equipment was required to be spread six feet apart to meet the COVID-19 regulations. When both men’s and women’s teams arrived in their designated cities to play in for the tournament, one former Oregon Duck women’s basketball player Sedona Prince made a TikTok post that went viral.

Photograph to the left is the Mens March Madness 2021 weight room| Photograph to the right is the Womens March Madness 2021 weigh room | March 19, 2021 | Photograph taken by Brisa Mendoza | Courtesy of CNN

Sedona Prince played basketball for the University of Oregon Women’s basketball team during the 2021 season before transferring to Texas Christian University for the 2023-2024 season. During this period of time, the Oregon Ducks punched their ticket for the 2021 March Madness tournament. When the team arrived in San Antonio, Texas because that was the site for the women’s tournament,  the female players noticed the facilities were significantly lacking compared to the men playing in the men’s version of the same tournament. In the weight room where they were placed, the women found that their weight room only consisted of a thigh-high tower of 112 hand weights, yoga mats, but offered plenty of room to stretch. Whereas the men’s tournament being held in Indianapolis at the same time, provided the men with a weight room that took over a hotel ballroom. In this newly created ballroom weight room, it consisted of free weights, hand weights, and machine weights that were placed all over the ballroom.1

TikTok Logo | courtesy of Google Images

When Sedona Prince found out about this situation where the men’s tournament received better treatment than the women did for the tournament, she created a TikTok video post regarding the facility differences that men received compared to what the women received. The reason why she did this is because she wanted to make a change and she saw this situation as an opportunity to shine a light on the differences and the treatment that the women were receiving compared to the men.2

When Prince posted this TikTok it received millions of views and it caught the attention of many people, including athletes that are in the NBA and WNBA. NBA superstar Stephen Curry made a tweet that stated “Wow come on now!”3After this tweet by Stephen Curry and the 13 million and counting viewers saw Prince’s TikTok post. It shined light on the many people who work for the NCAA . People reported that the NCAA saw the women’s game as an afterthought and the participants of the tournament as second-class citizens compared to the men who were receiving all this attention and this really good treatment.4

All this commotion that Prince’s TikTok post made resulted in the commissioner of the NCAA making a statement regarding the situation and stepping up to make a change for better treatment within the women’s March Madness tournament to be equally on par with the men’s March Madness tournament. The changes that the NCAA made the women’s tournament to improve equality included expansion of the tournament from 64 teams to 68 teams. This change had been made for the men in 2011. The women are also now receiving the exact same welcoming gifs as the men. In previous years, the mobile app for the NCAA March Madness previously only allowed spectators to watch the men’s games will now be hosting both the men’s and women’s games live for everyone to see. Another major change that the NCAA made was to use similar branding using the March Madness logo/logos for both men and women for the final four, and there will also be the same number of staff members allowed to travel with the teams. Previously for the women’s tournament, only seven staff members were able to travel with them, whereas for the men’s team were allowed to bring eleven staff members.5

With the spotlight on the differences that  Sedona Prince’s TikTok post created, and additional media coverage about the unequal coverage of female and male student basketball athletes significant changes resulted. There is still a long road to travel to create full gender equality in sports.  Issues of media coverage, broadcasting competitions, professional player income disparities and even style of dress still need to be tackled. Ever since the 2021 March Madness incident, there has been an increase in viewership for the women’s college basketball names. Names like Caitlin Clark, Paige Bueckers, Angel Reese, along with a growing list of others, bring a lot of viewership to women’s college basketball games. Women’s sports should be treated equally to men’s sports because their games are just as exciting as men’s basketball. Female college athletes are inspiring young women to play and enjoy the game of basketball.

  1. Billy Witz, “Her Video Spurred Changes in Women’s Basketball. Did They Go Far Enough?,” The New York Times, March 15, 2022,
  2. Dan Murphy, “Sedona Prince, March Madness and the Ongoing Quest for Gender Equity at NCAA Basketball Tournaments,” ESPN, March 15, 2022,
  3. Billy Witz, “Her Video Spurred Changes in Women’s Basketball. Did They Go Far Enough?,” The New York Times, March 15, 2022,
  4. Billy Witz, “Her Video Spurred Changes in Women’s Basketball. Did They Go Far Enough?,” The New York Times, March 15, 2022,
  5. Billy Witz, “Her Video Spurred Changes in Women’s Basketball. Did They Go Far Enough?,” The New York Times, March 15, 2022,

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