It’s only the third time in NCAA history this has happened.
The state’s governor, Glenn Youngkin, weighed in Monday as the town hailed its returning heroes: “Congratulations to the @LongwoodMBB team on punching your first ticket ever to the Dance. What an impressive victory!! 🏀 #MarchMadness,” Youngkin said in a tweet.
No W, Gov? As if the LongwoodWBB didn’t exist, let alone make it to the dance, too.
He was called out on it by other Virginians, including state Sen. Louise Lucas, who said, “We don’t have to erase our daughters to root for our sons Governor.”
Days after the parade in Farmville, Youngkin went to a boys’ high school basketball game, but still said nothing publicly to the Longwood women.
Rebecca Tillett, the Longwood women’s coach, said she knows “inequities still exist, everywhere” but is celebrating the breakneck speed at which female athletes are making gains.
“It’s an exciting time to be a woman, thanks to student-athletes speaking up,” Tillett said, pointing to student-athlete Sedona Prince, who in a viral video last year spotlighted the stark difference in training equipment available at the men’s and women’s NCAA basketball tournaments. “There’s so much good momentum right now.”
After she pushed Longwood University, her team is getting equipment almost as good as what the men have. Now, she’s asking for something else.
“I’d like to see equity in staffing,” she said. “That’s something we’re working on.”
About an hour after I reached out to Youngkin’s press office to make sure I wasn’t missing a private message of congratulations, Tillett received a call from the governor, she told me.
That’s four days after he atta-boyed the men’s team.
It’s no secret female athletes regularly get the brushoff, with mansplainers talking about ticket sales and audiences to explain away the disparate salaries, locker rooms, stadiums and scholarships.
The Washington Mystics got the same treatment in their hometown. When the Nats won the World Series in the same month that they won the WNBA title, D.C. forgot about them:
“DISTRICT. OF. CHAMPIONS!
That bromantic tweet from the Capitals forgot all about the women’s title. Easy enough to do, when they never got a victory parade. It was postponed until the spring, then never happened because of the pandemic.
The women had to race to the overseas leagues they play in during the offseason, where they get paid four or five times as much as they earn in the United States.
Even after landmark contract negotiations to increase player salaries in 2020, the average salary for a female professional basketball player is $130,000. Top stars can make $500,000 with marketing deals and bonuses.
The average salary for the men of the NBA? It’s $7.9 million, according to a RunRepeat analysis.
It’s the reason Brittney Griner — one of America’s top professional athletes — was in Russia, where she is being detained after authorities said they found a vape cartridge with oil derived from cannabis in her bag.
But back in Farmville, it seems that some folks are getting it right.
“We were actually joking, we were like ‘no one’s going to be here, everyone’s going to be home,’ ” Lancers guard Kyla McMakin said in an interview with WTVR CBS 6 amid cheers during Monday’s parade.
“And just to come out and see all these people, it shows how much Farmville cares,” McMakin said. “The love in this area — it’s such a big deal.”
Tillett said equity in sports isn’t going to be something that happens quickly and is achieved in line-by-line comparisons. Right now, appreciation and acknowledgment like the kind McMakin saw is monumental.
“I just watched our women’s faces, as we approached town,” she said. “We’re a very small town, their expectations were not high. But this was incredible. ‘Look how many people care!’ they said. This is what it’s all about, how people care.”