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Women's basketball coach blasts NCAA for treating the sport like 'an afterthought'

"It’s time for this to stop," Georgia Tech women's basketball coach Nell Fortner wrote on Twitter.
/ Source: TODAY

Nell Fortner, the head coach of the Georgia Tech women’s basketball team, lashed out Tuesday against the NCAA for what she calls “disparities” between the men’s and women’s national championship tournaments.

"Thank you for using the three biggest weeks of your organization's year to expose exactly how you feel about women's basketball — an afterthought," she wrote on Twitter.

"Thank you for showing off the disparities between the men's and women's tournament that are on full display in San Antonio," she continued, referring to the area where the women's tournament is taking place.

"From COVID testing, to lack of weight training facilities, to game floors that hardly tell anyone that it’s the NCAA Tournament and many more. But these disparities are just a snapshot of larger, more pervasive issues when it comes to women's sports and the NCAA. Shipping in a few racks of weights, after the fact, is not an answer. It's a Band-Aid and an afterthought."

Fortner’s squad, the No. 5 seed in the Hemisfair Region, advanced to the Sweet 16 with a 73-56 win over West Virginia on Tuesday, after she shared her message on Twitter.

Fortner, who coached the women's team to a gold medal at the 2000 Summer Olympics, called out the NCAA, claiming it treats female athletes as “a less valuable financial commodity.” She also said the women’s television contract is part of a package worth “half a billion” dollars and that the sport generates strong ratings.

Georgia Tech women's basketball coach Nell Fortner
"Thank you for using the three biggest weeks of your organization's year to expose exactly how you feel about women's basketball — an afterthought," Fortner wrote on Twitter.Andy Mead / Getty Images

“We are a valuable asset that has consistently earned the right to be marketed, promoted and conducted as a great championship rather than an afterthought,” she wrote.

Fortner also cited University of Oregon sophomore forward Sedona Prince, who drew attention to the inequity in weight rooms between the men’s and women’s teams competing in their respective tournaments, noting how many people viewed her message on Twitter and TikTok.

NCAA women's basketball tournament weight room photos
The weight room for players competing in the NCAA women's basketball tournament became a hot-button issue.Ali Kershner

“For too long women’s basketball has accepted an attitude and treatment from the NCAA that has been substandard in its championships. It’s time for this to stop. It’s time for women’s basketball to receive the treatment it has earned,” she concluded.

Fortner didn’t back down when speaking after her team’s win Tuesday.

“We're on a stage. We have a platform right now to talk about some things. The inequities have been around for a long time," Fortner said, according to USA Today. "Just about every coach here has had an opinion on it. I put out a statement; I just put out what I felt. That's how I feel, so I put it out there."

Georgia Tech will next take the court Saturday against the University of South Carolina, whose own coach, Dawn Staley, has also been vocal in her criticism of the NCAA.

NCAA women's basketball tournament weight room photos
The NCAA says it changed the weight rooms after a public outcry.NCAA

“In a season that has been focused on justice and equality it’s disheartening that we are addressing the glaring deficiencies and inequities in the WOMEN’S and men’s NCAA Tournament experiences for the student-athletes, but here we are,” she wrote on Twitter last week.

“What we now know is the NCAA’s season long messaging about ‘togetherness’ and ‘equality’ was about convenience and a soundbite for the moment created after the murder of George Floyd,” she continued.

Staley, who won a national championship at South Carolina in 2017, said it’s time the game gets the respect it deserves.

“Women’s basketball is a popular sport whose stock and presence continues to rise on a global level. It is sad that the NCAA is not willing to recognize and invest in our growth despite its claims of togetherness and growth.”