March Madness is here, and women’s basketball continues to rise. Games tipped off this past weekend but let’s not forget about the inequalities women have faced when they are supposed to be celebrated.
UCLA head coach Cori Close had mixed emotions about the inequality issues and feels it needs to be addressed. The mistreatment of women is nothing new; it’s now gaining public traction.
Close wants to stay positive because it has been growth, compared to 28 years ago when she first started coaching. “I want to be honest. I want to relentlessly fight for the change that is needed. We still have a long way to go.”
Women are elite athletes, mastering their craft at the highest level, says Close. She finds it interesting that these issues are brought to light happens during Women History Month. Everything is being blamed on revenue when there is a solution to increase ratings and generate money to help women athletes.
According to Close, there are corporate sponsorships, coverage on television that will contribute to growing women’s basketball. “The bottom line is that we’ve increased eyeballs on our sport in the Pac-12 by 300% a year. If that was pushed more on a national stage; still only 4% of national coverage on ESPN is women.”
During March Madness, the incidents for women lead Close to believe serious changes will be made in the future because everyone is using their voice.
The third-team All-American Michaela Onyenwere says she is thankful for the power of social media.” I’m super glad college athletes used their voices to show people what was happening. Social media is such an important tool.” Onyenwere believes if it wasn’t for athletes using their voice, she doesn’t believe these issues would have been brought to the light.
Onyenwere has the opportunity to be a top pick in the WNBA draft, and her earnings could be significant due to the changes CBA has made recently. Close says you compare that to a top pick in the NBA draft. It still shows an imbalance.
Close mentions how Onyenewere would still have to play overseas and continue to wear and tear on her body. “It shortens the lifespan of professional athletes.” WNBPA President Nneka Ogwumike is fighting for change in regards to women’s salaries.
Freshman Dominique Darius says she’s glad everything was exposed, but at the same time, it hurts because women put in the amount of work like everybody else. “To see that repetitive behavior, it’s like what else do we have to do.” Darius hopes to see a change in the next few years.
The weight room and the food were the biggest concerns for everyone. The inequalities exist on a day-to-day basis, says close. “To devalue them based on their gender saddens me the most. I believe these women are hardworking, they’re competitive, they’re driven, and they want to make a difference in this world.”
UCLA women’s basketball team has educated close on how they feel about the injustices and racial inequality. They understand this is the world we live in today and will do all they can to implement change.
Onyenwere says, “I’m a female athlete; I’ve been dealing with this my whole life. You see it at the WNBA level, and you see it at our level. I’m proud of what we have done at the collegiate level, as far as speaking up, but I hope it does change moving forward for generations to come.”
Cori Close misses the late Kobe Bryant. Post NBA career, Kobe was dedicating his life to grow the game of women’s basketball. She states he is a pioneer for speaking up on behalf of women’s basketball. Close hopes NBA players speak for the women.
“We need our male counterparts that know what we do, to come alongside and be like Kobe.” Close wishes they will use their platforms and resources to bring awareness.
UCLA women’s basketball wants men to understand they are not mad at them, and she continues to cheer on the men’s team.
Wyoming vs. UCLA faces off today, and it should be a matchup for teams.