Last March, Sedona Prince, a forward for the Oregon women’s basketball team, posted a video to TikTok spotlighting the difference in weight rooms at the men’s and women’s NCAA tournaments. “If you’re not upset about this problem,” Prince said to the camera, “then you’re a part of it.” The video went viral overnight, ultimately forcing the NCAA to not just supply the women with a real weight room, but closely examine the inequities between the tournaments. In her own words, Prince talks about what she did, what she wants out of the 2022 tournament and what she hopes people took away from her video di lei.
As told to Lindsay Schnell
I didn’t have a specific plan in mind when I posted that video. What I knew was this: I was really, really angry.
A part of me didn’t think what I saw was real. We’d been hearing things and seeing stuff on Twitter; the stark difference in resources was a hot topic in the women’s basketball community, but for awhile, I thought it was a joke. But then when we saw it before practice it was like, are you kidding me? There are 64 teams in one place, and only two people could actually use that “weight room” at one time. It was ridiculous.
Growing up, you get dangerously accustomed to the unevenness between the girls and boys sports. As you grow up, that anger builds. Some of it loads in the background, behind the smiles, friendships and celebrations that are so fundamental to the positive effect of sports for girls. Yet with the weight room at the tournament, the level of disrespect was just so blatant.
When I saw it, all that anger came through like a tidal wave – and it wasn’t just mine.
We already know we’re getting less money, our food’s a little bit worse, our swag bags aren’t as cool. But then we see pictures of the men’s NCAA tournament bubble and they have this state-of-the-art massive weight complex and we have some dumbbells and yoga mats. Really? We’ve been working our entire lives to experience March Madness. It’s supposed to be this huge celebration of our season and our careers, and this is our reward? There are layers to the failure that was laid out in front of us. More than one person signed off on what we saw.
BRACKET GAME:Create a pool and invite your friends
PRINTABLE BRACKET:Fill out your women’s tournament bracket
PRINTABLE BRACKET:Fill out your men’s tournament bracket
So I post the video and I go to sleep.
I woke up to a text from our Sports Information Director: “Dude, what did you do?”
Yes, it was a little scary to call out the NCAA. This is the biggest organization in college sports. It is college sports, but when I woke up, I had no idea what was going on. My phone was blowing up.
It felt like in a single moment, everyone was talking about it, everyone was paying attention and everyone was calling it out – even people who don’t care about sports or who’d never seen women’s basketball before. It was insane, but amazing. It was this absolutely crazy moment. I started to hear from other players on other teams, that their coaches and administrations asked them to be quiet about it. I never felt that. Oregon and Kelly Graves, my coach, they told me to keep talking, and keep using my voice. I told my friends to do the same.
Women’s tournament should be a celebration, not an afterthought
I get asked a lot about what changes I want to see this year. My dream is easy: I want our March Madness – nice that we finally get to call it that, by the way – to feel like a celebration. The model is there; you’ve seen it for the men for years. I want that. I want us to feel special, instead of feeling like an afterthought. I want it to be like we imagined it when we were little kids dreaming of playing in March Madness. Last year, everyone had their hearts broken. It can’t be like that this year.
Also, frankly, I will know I made a real difference when we get to stop talking about this. That’s when we’ll know that we’ve made real progress.
When everything happened, I heard from so many young girls. They sent me messages saying stuff like, “I’m 12 and I quit sports, but I’m going to play again now” or “I quit because I was getting bullied, but I’m going to go back.” Those messages mean so much to me.
Sometimes I think about what I wanted in a role model growing up – someone who was gay and outspoken and goofy and weird and just completely open and themselves. Someone who would have said, “Hey, I’m a woman, I’m beautiful just the way I am – and I’m also a badass athlete.” That would have meant so much to me. If I was younger, and I’d seen someone talk about inequity like this and witnessed the powerful reaction, it would have made me feel like, “Oh my God, this is such an important movement – I want to be part of it! I want to be with those women. ” Maybe I did that for someone. Maybe I helped invite them in.
I heard another player said recently that until I posted that video, they didn’t realize how powerful their voice was. I hope that’s what everyone takes away from this, especially women – that your voice matters, and you can make a difference. If you’re passionate about something, if you see a problem, speak up.
When I think about it now I realize, history was happening in that moment. We were living it – and I played a role. My video was the first domino to fall and the wave it produced is still rolling. What it also helped me realize is if we want change for women in sports, we have to demand it. Change is not going to come from the top. It has to start with us.
And if we collectively take responsibility for its momentum, they won’t be able to stop us.
Follow Sedona Prince on Twitter: @sedonaprince_