As March Madness reaches the final four matches, fans around the country wait in anticipation of the next big win. However, this past week, fans of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish were on the edge of their seats as the head coach, Muffet McGraw, went viral for her attack on gender inequality in an interview on Thursday, April 4.
McGraw has made it to the final four of March Madness nine times throughout her career, but her appearance on Thursday was the first time she used this platform to speak out on larger issues in the sports world. During a news conference, McGraw made many bold claims against the inequality she sees as an issue in the league.
McGraw highlighted coaching inequality in particular, citing how men’s basketball is coached mostly by male coaches, but the same could not be said for female coaches in women’s basketball.
In response to comments on her hiring mentality, McGraw asked, “When you look at men’s basketball, 99 percent of the jobs go to men, why shouldn’t 100 or 99 percent of the jobs in women’s basketball go to women?”
McGraw also used her position to comment on the failed Equal Rights Amendment, and how female representation has been viewed in recent months.
“I’m getting tired of the novelty of the first female governor of this state, the first female African-American mayor of [a] city. When is it going to become the norm instead of the exception?” McGraw said. “We don’t have enough female role models. We don’t have enough visible women leaders. We don’t have enough women in power.”
The Equal Rights Amendment, which was introduced in 1967, still has not been passed, as 38 U.S. states have not reached a verdict on whether they would support this amendment. The rates of women coaching women’s basketball teams in the NCAA has been steadily decreasing in recent years. The gender pay gap has also received a large amount of attention in the last couple months since the U.S. women’s national league soccer team sued for equal pay back in March 2019.
Although McGraw has been met with rebuttals from many of the male coaches in the WNBA league, she has not let that deter her goal of leveling the playing field.
“Women can be empowered by a lot of people, men included. Opportunity for women is important, and it’s being brought to the forefront, which is amazing. But, I do think you want good people in the game without excluding anyone,” Chris Dailey, a former NCAA coach, said in response to McGraw’s statements.
From McGraw’s standpoint, her goal is not to exclude anyone, but rather to celebrate the talent that women have and actively acknowledge that women can do the job as well as men can, especially when coaching an all-women’s sports team.
McGraw’s assistant coach, Niele Ivey, was formerly a Notre Dame point guard who went on to become a WNBA star. Carol Owens, McGraw’s other assistant coach, had previously coached for Northern Illinois University. These women felt that they were incredibly lucky McGraw recognized their potential and wanted to help them reach it. “I think the person doing the hiring is generally a white man, right? We need more diversity in our athletic directors,” McGraw commented in an interview with ThinkProgress.
McGraw has gone viral on Twitter, with a video of her posted by the NCAA women’s basketball account going viral with over 22,000 retweets, and 62,000 likes. Former President Barack Obama retweeted the video, commenting that McGraw was, “A voice everybody should hear.”