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NCAA hires law firm for gender-equity review after men’s, women’s tournament disparities

After facing criticism for recently publicized disparities between its men’s and women’s basketball tournaments, the NCAA has hired a law firm to conduct an independent gender-equity review of its championships across all three divisions and for all sports, the NCAA announced Thursday.

According to the news release, the NCAA has hired the New York-based firm Kaplan Hecker & Fink, “which has significant experience in Title IX and gender equity issues, to evaluate our practices and policies and provide recommendations on steps we can take to get better.”

On Saturday, the NCAA improved the women’s weight-training facilities in San Antonio after pictures and video that circulated on social media revealed a stark contrast to what was provided at the Division I men’s basketball tournament in the Indianapolis area. The backlash prompted a public apology from NCAA vice president for basketball Dan Gavitt.

The NCAA also faced questions about differences in the so-called swag bags given to the men’s and women’s players, the food options available and the type of COVID-19 testing being done for both. Because the NCAA isn’t a public institution, it’s not subject to Title IX rules.

“The NCAA will continue to address material and impactful differences between the Division I Men’s and Women’s Basketball Championships,” NCAA president Mark Emmert said in the statement. “While many of the operational issues identified have been resolved, we must continue to make sure we are doing all we can to support gender equity in sports. As part of this effort, we are evaluating the current and previous resource allocation to each championship, so we have a clear understanding of costs, spend and revenue.”

Emmert said the law firm will help the NCAA evaluate its championships “to identify any other gaps that need to be addressed, both qualitatively and quantitatively, to achieve gender equity.” The NCAA hopes to have preliminary assessments in late April, followed by a final report this summer after all championships have been completed.

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