It’s time the NCAA recognizes ‘March Madness’ as a gender-neutral term

Last week, the official NCAA March Madness Twitter account tweeted a video commiserating with fans about the day’s absence of basketball games.

The thing was, there were March Madness games that day; there were 8 games for the second round of the women’s tournament. And they were good ones — two 6-seeds pulled off big wins in close games.

Breanna Stewart, reigning WNBA MVP and member of the 2018 Seattle Storm championship team, called out the NCAA for the tweet.

Cue eye-roll inducing Twitter thread responses about women’s basketball not being as interesting.

One argument did hold water: the official NCAA March Madness Twitter account claims to only tell men’s D1 basketball news, and not women’s.

While Twitter handle @marchmadness appears to be gender-neutral, the account bio says otherwise: “The official NCAA March Madness destination for all things Division I NCAA Men’s Basketball. #MarchMadness”

If you want the women’s D1 tournament news, you have to follow a separate account — @ncaawbb.

So, does this mean March Madness is just a term to describe the men’s tournament? The NCAA seems a bit confused.

On the NCAA’s trademark protection guidelines, the organization maintains that the championship encompasses both the men’s and women’s teams.

But if you read the NCAA’s “comprehensive guide” recounting the history March Madness starting in 1939, you’ll find all sorts of info about the Division 1 men’s basketball tournament. The history mentions exciting games, best teams and high scores — all in men’s games. There is no mention the women’s tournament, which started in 1982.

The language we use and the stories we tell are important. As Stewart mentioned in her tweet, how can we expect people to respect women’s basketball when the NCAA doesn’t?

The term March Madness should apply to both the men’s and women’s D1 basketball tournament.

In certain cases, separate social media accounts for men’s and women’s sports updates makes sense. There is content to be organized and audiences to be catered to. But by excluding women’s updates from the official NCAA March Madness Twitter account, the organization is losing out on an important opportunity to promote women’s basketball. Which is good basketball, especially this season.

So, @NCAA, what do you say you update that Twitter bio?