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Sabrina Ionescu, Kyrie Irving call out NCAA for treatment of women’s basketball in Indy

New York Liberty v Atlanta Dream Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images

The big story out of Indianapolis on the opening weekend of March Madness is not the big match-ups or star players but a controversy over the disparity between men’s and women's’ training facilities at the NCAA basketball tournaments.

Sabrina Ionescu, the Liberty point guard —and a veteran of NCAA tournaments while at Oregon, was among the first to point out the issue ... in stark terms.

Then, when the NCAA claimed it was a “space” issue, Ionescu retorted...

NBA players quickly added their voice to the growing protest, including Kyrie Irving who has supported women’s basketball and last year, set up a fund for WNBA players who couldn’t participate in the league’s “wubble” in Bradenton, Florida.

Later in the Nets post-game media availability, Irving expanded his comments, leaving no doubt about his beliefs...

“There wasn’t much to process when you see it right in front of you. It’s kind of eye-opening every single day to realize that we live in a society where we kind of expect so much from men, our kings, and then we go out and show an effort like that in terms of how we show our respect for our queens going to play on a high-level as well.

“It can’t happen in our society. It’s way overdue, it’s been happening for years; we just have social platforms to be able to amplify it. We need to make a change, not only just in the NCAA but youth sports with girls. And I’m here to follow the steps as a pioneer, to continue to be a voice for that. But that’s unacceptable. That’s unacceptable for that to be going on, for that to not even be a conversation about what the women need there, and then for to be an example of the highest level of basketball for some of these collegiate athletes to be there and that’s the example that’s set.

“So everyone talks a big game about how they want to change things in this world and society, and they had a chance and the NCAA failed. I feel like they fail a lot of the youth athletes at times when they want some independence from that corporate structure. But that’s a conversation we need to have as professionals, kind of away from these platforms in order to see a real change. But it’s good to see that we’ve galvanized around what needs to done the right way in terms of handling our queens. And I felt like I needed to step in and say something. Just clear as day what’s going on. Just need to make a change there.”

Equal treatment of men's’ and women's’ sports is the law. Title IX specifically requires “the equal treatment of female and male student-athletes in the provisions of equipment and supplies.”

The controversy also extended to the “swag bags” provided to male and female athletes at the tournament, the male bags noticeably more filled with goodies.

But at least on the training facilities, there was a semblance of equality by Saturday afternoon.