She has a Name and a Title by Monique A.J. Smith

I recently finished reading John Grisham's book "Sooley," a college basketball novel that features a Sundan young male basketball player on the campus of a Historically Black College University, HBCU. I loved the concept and was excited to read about an industry I have given 30 plus years of my life, athletics, and higher education. One of the reasons I was so delighted to read about this book was because it featured a University, I was familiar with, North Carolina Central University, located in Durham, NC. I knew the real people in the Athletics Department, including the Director of Athletics (AD), Dr. Ingrid Wicker-McCree, who has served at the helm for 13 years. I even remember when the Head Men's Basketball Coach, LeVelle Moton was a player at NCCU, and his slogan was "Poetry in Motion."

So my elation was downgraded to frustration when I read Moten was referred to by name, but Dr. McCree was not. Even if Grisham didn't have permission to use her name, he could have had the AD character be a woman. In the book, when referring to the AD, it was sexless. It was written as "The AD" Why is this important? The AD is the leader with oversight of the Athletic Department; according to the USAToday article May 2021, "Women hold athletic director roles in only 15 percent of NCAA Division I institutions, 21 percent of Division II institutions, and 32 percent of Division III institutions.'  

In "Sooley",  the leader of the University, the President, was also nameless but it was referred to as a man with phrases such as "The President and his wife."

You may believe this is being petty or being sensitive. Not sure of the author's angle of omission, and I even reached out to Grisham on Twitter to ask why the vagueness on the position, but no response. The omission may be another case of unconscious bias. Nevertheless, I bring to the consciousness that "Representation" matters, even in a work of fiction.  

Jeanette A. Lee, the first woman Director of Athletics in the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA), in 1990, was a graduate of the school NCCU featured in the novel. Ms. Lee wouldn't let anyone refer to her as "She" in a conversation, or any other woman as in "She said."  Ms. Lee would correct on the spot, "She has a name."

Every week for the last eight years, I put a "name on it" on the podcast "Where Significance Blooms in Athletics and Sports," where  Black Women in Athletics Administration and Sports Business are spotlighted every week via   Most recently, we launched "Significance in Athletics and Sports -Magazine" that gives Black Women in the industry the opportunity to control their "Specialize Knowledge" narrative.

In the words of bell hooks, author, professor, feminist, and social activist who passed away, Dec. 15, 2021,

"I will not have my life narrowed down. I will not bow down to somebody else's ignorance."

Learn more about Monique at 
Twitter: @HostofChat


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