Sha'Carri Richardson, of the United States, celebrates winning the women's 100 meters during the World Athletics Championships in Budapest, Hungary, Monday, Aug. 21, 2023. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

A new wave of Black female athletes is taking center stage, bringing to new heights rhythmic dribbling, squeaking sneakers, and powerful soundtracks on basketball courts, tracks, fields, figure skating rinks, tennis courts and gymnastic mats.

The influence and popularity of Black female athletes include the South Carolina Gamecocks Women’s Basketball team under the leadership of four-time National Coach of the Year Dawn Staley.

The team finished off their season undefeated with 38-0, and Coach Staley has only lost three games so far in the span of her three years at South Carolina.

Nakissia W. Rawls

Observers say the beauty of her team’s huge win has truly shined a big light onto the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) and women’s basketball in all categories. They have sparked excitement in children, youth, and adults.


Morgan Price, an 18-year-old Fisk University gymnast, was the first athlete from a Historically Black College and University (HBCU) to win an all-around national title at the 2024 USA Gymnastics Women’s Collegiate National Championships.

Judea Skies “JuJu” Watkins is only the second University of Southern California (USC) Trojan ever to be named Gatorade National Girls Basketball Player of the Year. She also won gold medals with USC at the 2022 FIBA U17 World Cup and 2021 FIBA Americas U16 Championship.

“I’m really excited for the sport of women’s basketball, collegiate basketball, in particular, really ecstatic about the success of Dawn Staley and the South Carolina Gamecocks.

Husband and wife team, Brother Henry X and Sister Keishonda X are business owners and educators based in Rockford, Ill.

I think it’s just a good time. It’s an exciting time for the sport of women’s basketball, in particular, and some of the other athletes—Coco Gauff (2023 U.S. Open champion) and Naomi Osaka (four-time Grand Slam singles champion) and some of the gymnasts, Simone Biles (the most decorated American gymnast in history as a World Champion and four-time Olympic gold medalist),”

Stated Nakissia Rawls, a mentor, high school basketball coach and sports fan who resides in Columbus, Ohio. “It’s just great to see these young women on the forefront and getting the recognition that they deserve and I wish them all continued success.”

While celebrating the remarkable victory and spotlight on young Black women and girls in sports, it’s crucial to recognize a persisting issue in women’s basketball. Coach Staley’s historic undefeated season and stellar track record earned her a seven-year contract worth $22.4 million, making her the highest-paid women’s coach. However, this salary disparity is stark when compared to the earnings of even some of the lowest-paid male players in the National Basketball Association (NBA).

Fisk Arrives Gymnastics

There are complexities, said journalist and historian Davey D, speaking of the basketball situation. For example, people have questioned why is WNBA rookie Caitlyn Clark getting a $28 million Nike shoe deal and getting invited everywhere, but not sisters who have been making it happen for decades?

He suggests that the lack of support from the Black community for the women’s basketball league stems partly from societal influences. Until mainstream media spotlighted a White woman’s skill in three-point shooting akin to Steph Curry, many were unaware of women’s teams, indicating a broader societal preference, he told The Final Call.

Until mainstream media did a profile, he couldn’t name three women’s basketball teams, and neither could many others, Davey D acknowledged. Another part of the reality is that the dominant society wants to see their own, he continued. 

“Now we’re aware and want to start applying stuff to the equation when we were not participants from jump. We’ve got to be honest and ask ourselves what sort of skin are we willing to put in the game and why didn’t we put skin in the game,” he said. 

LSU forward Angel Reese, center, warms up in a shirt honoring Kay Yow, the Hall of Fame basketball coach who continued to coach the North Carolina State women’s team during a long battle with cancer before her death in 2009, before an NCAA college basketball game against Mississippi Thursday, Feb. 16, 2023, in Baton Rouge, La. The shirts raise awareness for the Kay Yow Cancer Fund. (AP Photo/Matthew Hinton)

Black women have been at the top of their game for a minute, Davey D added, however, he thinks the challenge is how Black women are perceived and depicted in general.

“If you’d ask me who is the greatest athlete, I would say Serena (Williams-23-time Grand Slam tennis champion). There would be others that would have a vitriolic response to that.

There’s a hatred of women that I think sits in the claws of a lot of people. You can’t separate the athlete, say for example, versus the women that we might see on television or in a movie where they’re the star, the star player,” Davey D said. 

But, people have said such women need to be put in their place, or need to fall into a particular sort of confine, not be too sexual or asexual, or be too outspoken, but when he sees Serena, he also sees Beyoncé, former U.S. first lady Michelle Obama, or some other prominent woman in politics.

“If there’s a sister that’s aggressive, I don’t think she needs to be put in her place and needs to tone down. She’s probably behaving in a way that she has to, to survive this world. We don’t tell everybody else to calm down, so why are we telling her,” Davey D said.

Southern California guard JuJu Watkins (12) celebrates after a 93-42 win against Le Moyne in an NCAA college basketball game in Los Angeles, Monday, Nov. 13, 2023. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

It happened to Angel Reese. The 21-year-old woman was selected by the WNBA’s Chicago Sky from Louisiana State University with the 7th overall pick in the first round of the 2024 WNBA Draft.

She endured rude gestures, trash talk, and aggressive play as she helped to lead LSU women’s basketball to their first national title. As noted by Ms. Rawls, it’s viewed as playing fundamentally sound and physical, but when Black women talk trash and play aggressively it’s deemed as bully ball and manhandling. Ms. Reese has been called classless because she mimicked an opponent’s gesture during March Madness in 2023.

However, the basketball sensation’s journey embodies resilience, determination, and excellence. 

Ticket sales for the Chicago Sky soared after the April 15 WNBA draft, which saw the team select Kamilla Cardoso and Angel Reese, according to the Chicago Tribune. It reported, tickets for a June 23 game between the Sky and the Indiana Fever—the team that drafted Caitlin Clark—are “nearly sold out on Ticketmaster, with prices as high as $1,700.” The “cheapest tickets are $225.”

South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley cuts down the net after the Final Four college basketball championship game against Iowa in the women’s NCAA Tournament, Sunday, April 7, 2024, in Cleveland. South Carolina won 87-75. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

“I would say continue to strive for greatness. Continue to do your best, be your best, because real talent cannot be denied and just be confident in your skill set and be confident in who you are as a young woman, a Black woman, and always represent yourself well. 

Hold yourself in high regard and high esteem and just be who you are. Be unapologetically you,” Ms. Rawls encouraged the young, Black athletes.

Davey D tackled some of the chastisement accusing Ms. Reese of not being prim and proper or criticizing her of being too sexy. 

“What the h*** do you want her to do? She’s looking her best and living her best life. I’d rather see her walk around the way that she is than some of these basketball players, wearing all kinds of crazy outfits,” he said.

Meanwhile, as a rare sight during the National Cheerleaders Association (NCA) College Nationals 2024 in Daytona Beach, Florida, multiple HBCU cheer teams blew spectators away as they earned their accolades to take home trophies.

North Carolina A&T’s team won the national title in the Intermediate Small Coed Division 1 group. Jackson State earned 5th place, Tennessee State 11th place, and Xavier University of Louisiana took home a championship by winning in the Advanced Large Coed NAIA (National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics) class.

LAS VEGAS, NV – JANUARY 06: Morgan Price of Fisk wins the vault with a score of 9.9 during a meet at the Orleans Arena on January 6, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Stew Milne/Getty Images)

Award-winning actress Gabrielle Union-Wade, who portrayed captain of the East Compton Clovers in the hit cheer film “Bring it On” herself tweeted “The real live Clovers!!!!?!?! Why am I crying? For those who aren’t familiar with competitive cheer, this is HUGE!! And it’s NOT due to a lack of talent. @jadawooten_ let em know! #BringItOn”

Another example of a Black female athlete taking center stage beyond sports is Maya Moore. In 2019, she took a sabbatical to work on criminal justice reform. She and her husband, Jonathan Irons, co-founded the social action nonprofit, Win With Justice, and speak out against prosecutorial misconduct.

During the 2024 Liberal Arts and Sciences Symposium at Oglethorpe University in Atlanta, Georgia, the Hall-of-Fame basketball player and Arthur Ashe Award for Courage winner and her husband delivered the keynote address, themed, “Reasonable Doubts: Crime and Punishment in Society.”

As noted by Oglethorpe University, Ms. Moore, a basketball icon (two-time NCAA champion with the University of Connecticut, two-time Olympic gold medalist, four-time WNBA champion with the Minnesota Lynx, WNBA MVP among many other awards and accolades) was introduced to Mr. Irons by family members involved in a prison ministry, before her freshman year at Connecticut.

He was just 18 years old when he was wrongly convicted by an all-White jury for a crime that occurred when he was 16. With no physical evidence tying him to the crime, he was handed a 50-year prison sentence, of which he served 23 years, according to Oglethorpe’s The Source. 

In 2019, Ms. Moore shocked the world when she decided to step away from basketball to focus on his case. He was released July 1, 2020, and they were engaged the next day. They married that same month and have worked together in prison ministry, prosecutorial reform and social justice.

For Keishonda X Williamson, once an all-American guard for Northern Illinois University Women’s Basketball team, life after the court centers around educating young minds through Kikifer’s Entrepreneur Academy. Founded with her husband, Henry X, the school works to instill the “do-for-self” work ethic through its K-12 curriculum.

“From the inception, entrepreneurship has always been a part of our curriculum. We’ve always talked to students about how do you start an LLC; what’s an EIN number; what’s a tax write-off?

Anything you can think of in business, we give it to our students, because they have to start a business, but they also have to make money in that business,” Keishonda X said. What also sets them apart from other schools is they require all students to become a published author, she added.

 “I think that it can be very powerful for anyone to use their voice to bring light to a particular situation, regardless of what that is,” Ms. Rawls, the mentor and coach said.

“And I appreciate the fact that they’re not scared, because a lot of times, people get scared, especially when they have a certain platform or reach a certain level, but the fact that these young women, or any athlete, or any person can stand up and fight for what they believe is right and just, I think that that is very admirable.”

In the realm of sports, the narrative of Black female athletes’ triumphs is as powerful as it is inspiring. The time is now to support them, be innovative and strategic, Davey D said.

“Are we going to have watch parties when the season starts, trading cards for these women? Are people going to invite these athletes to be part of the parade? 

Juneteenth is coming up, right? There’ll be all these Juneteenth celebrations, let’s go around from city to city to city,” he said. “How many of these cities and organizations have invited just the sisters, just the sisters that are playing on any of these teams to say we want you to lead the parade?”