Skip links

Session 220: Black Women Athletes Reimagining Sports

The Therapy for Black Girls Podcast is a weekly conversation with Dr. Joy Harden Bradford, a licensed Psychologist in Atlanta, Georgia, about all things mental health, personal development, and all the small decisions we can make to become the best possible versions of ourselves.

Earlier this week marked the ending of the Tokyo Olympics and there was no shortage of stories about Black women athletes both leading up to and during the games. To help us dig a little deeper into some of the ways that gender and race intersected during the Olympics and through sports history, today I’m joined by Dr. Leeja Carter, an Associate Professor of Exercise Psychology at the intersection of racial and gender equity at Temple University. Dr. Carter and I chatted about the ways that gendered racism shows up in sports, how the strong black woman trope impacts athletes, how athletes are using platforms like social media to tell more of their story, and how athletes like Simone Biles & Naomi Osaka are ushering in a change about how athletes take care of themselves.


Visit our Amazon Store for all the books mentioned on the podcast!

Join us for the Last Days of Summer Book Club chat on Aug. 26 @ 7pm EST.

Where to Find Dr. Carter

Instagram: @drleeja

Stay Connected

Is there a topic you’d like covered on the podcast? Submit it at

If you’re looking for a therapist in your area, check out the directory at

Take the info from the podcast to the next level by joining us in the Therapy for Black Girls Sister Circle

Grab your copy of our guided affirmation and other TBG Merch at

The hashtag for the podcast is #TBGinSession.

Make sure to follow us on social media:

Twitter: @therapy4bgirls

Instagram: @therapyforblackgirls

Facebook: @therapyforblackgirls

Our Production Team

Executive Producers: Dennison Bradford & Maya Cole

Producer: Cindy Okereke

Assistant Producer: Ellice Ellis

Read Full Transcript

Session 220: Black Women Athletes Reimagining Sports

Dr. Joy: Hey y’all! Thanks so much for joining me for Session 220 of the Therapy for Black Girls podcast. We’ll get right into the episode after a word from our sponsors.


Dr. Joy: Earlier this week marked the ending of the Tokyo Olympics and there was no shortage of stories about black women athletes, both leading up to and during the games. To help us dig a little deeper into some of the ways that gender and race intersected during the Olympics and through sports history, today I'm joined by Dr. Leeja Carter.

Dr. Carter identifies as a feminist sport psychology practitioner and her work addresses historical and contemporary representations of black women’s strength, culturally sensitive health and sport psychology approach for people of color, and gendered racism in sports. Dr. Carter is an Associate Professor of Exercise Psychology at the intersection of racial and gender equity at Temple University. And in 2019, she published Feminist Applied Sport Psychology: From Theory to Practice, an edited text addressing intersectional feminist, womanist, and black feminist praxis in sport psychology.

Dr. Carter and I chatted about the ways that gendered racism shows up in sports, how the strong black woman trope impacts athletes, how athletes are using platforms like social media to tell more of their story, and how athletes like Simone Biles and Naomi Osaka are ushering in a change about how athletes take care of themselves. If there's something that resonates with you while enjoying our conversation, please be sure to share it with us on social media using the hashtag #TBGinSession. Here's our conversation.

Dr. Joy: I'm just so excited to have this opportunity to talk with you because I feel like in an academic’s and a psychologist’s life, there are few times when the work that you do kind of comes to life in such a big, big way and like on such a global scale. I know that you have been incredibly busy in the past couple of weeks and would love for you to just start by sharing your thoughts about all of the things that have unfolded as it relates to black women specifically in the Olympics.

Dr. Carter: Gosh, yeah. I mean, this is one of those moments where you’re like 10 years of your research and you're like, I've been telling y'all!

Dr. Joy: Tried to tell y’all!

Dr. Carter: Tried to tell y’all, ain’t nobody’s been listening. Now you’re listening.

Dr. Joy: Yes.

Dr. Carter: That’s the feeling, that's honestly the feeling. Where you're like it's definitely a full circle moment, not just for myself but for other researchers and practitioners whose work is deeply at this intersection of the ways in which these kind of racist and sexist stereotypes and tropes play out in performance-based domains. And seeing the way it's kind of lived, it’s kind of been demonstrated. It's like, this is what we've been saying all along and this is how it impacts wellness. This is how it impacts black women's wellness, it's right here right in front of us.

For us to see the way black women athletes have to navigate both racist and sexist oppressive systems in sports at the Olympic level I think has been very, very interesting because that is really the world stadium, the largest platform in sports. And so looking at Simone Biles, Naomi Osaka, even Allyson Felix, and the ways in which they've had to navigate sports throughout their entire career.

But particularly this year, I think it is quite interesting because, not just with COVID, but it's also the sum of a year and a half of racial reckoning that all black women have absorbed but particularly black women athletes. And so the Olympics being a space in which they've kind of had to navigate this past year and then perform, being a representative of the black community, and also being a representative of black women whom we still haven't gotten justice for–Breonna Taylor. And so it's just quite interesting, it’s an interesting time in sports.

Dr. Joy: I want to step back for a little bit just to kind of give our community an understanding of like what sport psychologists generally do and then specifically, with the combination of you being a sport psychologist but also your specific research focus, what that work looks like for you.

Dr. Carter: Yeah, for sure. Sport psychology is a very diverse field. It includes researchers and practitioners, both individuals who might be trained clinically within the mental health field and work with athletes along the spectrum of mental health and mental illness as it intersects within sports and athleticism, as well as researchers and non-clinically trained individuals who work more around the domain of sport and performance. So what are the conditions that help excite and stimulate elite athletic performers’ exercises?

And then you have individuals who (and this is a little bit more of kind of where I fit in, I fit in in kind of multiple places) are also interested around exercises and physical health and wellbeing. What are the ways in which exercise kind of helps support overall health and wellbeing? And how are we as a sport and exercise community kind of bringing exercise and sports to everybody in order for them to engage in sports for all? And so you have kind of a multitude and a diversity of folks within the sport and performance psychology realm.

My research really looks at gendered racism in sport, exercise and health domains. I'm most interested in the ways in which sport and exercise both help and hinder physical activity and sport engagement among girls and women of color, particularly black women. And when we look historically and contemporarily, what are the things, what are the conditions that have been most helpful for sport engagement? What are the things that over time might cause black women and girls to leave sports and physical activity? And how do we kind of change those trends?

And, of course, it's a multitude of factors. It's no one particular factor, it's a multitude of things. My research and my work also looks at what are ways in which we can train the next generation of sport and exercise psychology practitioners to be much more culturally responsive to the needs of women of color, but particularly black women and girls, when it comes to sports and performance and physical activity. And then I'm also just generally interested in just motivation. You know, what are the things that are involved in increasing motivation and engagement in sports and physical activity amongst diverse populations? Again, particularly women of color and black women.

Dr. Joy: Yeah, so I think you were the perfect person to talk to about this because of your research, you looking at gender and sexism as it relates to sports, and I think we saw a lot of examples of that with just the Olympics this year. We had Sha'Carri Richardson’s suspension and then there was the whole ban on like the afro swimming caps and Brianna McNeal missing her drug tests after recovering from an abortion. And so it seems like the Olympics committee sets these supposedly neutral kinds of rules but then we do see (it feels like at least) black women kind of being unduly penalized by some of this. Can you talk about like how those rules that are supposed to be neutral really do kind of harm black women specifically?

Dr. Carter: Oh, yeah. The first thing here that comes up for me is that these rules are neutral for white men but they're not neutral for black women and for women of color. And that speaks to the lack of diversity in governing bodies, that those who are the decision makers and those who are the gatekeepers when it comes to these governing bodies in sports, in large part, those that sit on the boards are men and white people. There's very little representation of women of color and then particularly black women.

So when they're creating these policies and these regulations, it does seem neutral for people whom it just wouldn’t affect, which is an issue. But then when we think about the issue with the swim cap, yeah, I'm sure it's quite neutral for white men because they don't have to think about natural hairstyles. But it's actually quite political for black women who have natural hair, who swim and need something that is fitting and also can cut through the water for them when they're swimming at high rates of speed in the water.

Dr. Joy: Yeah, and I think even based on your earlier comment about studying some of the reasons why women leave sports, and thinking about like how many... Like myself, personally, I do not know how to swim. I don't think it's all the way related to hair (I also just grew up in the country where there weren't like lots of access to like where would you swim), but I have heard that as a huge reason why a lot of black women have not swum. Because if you just got your hair done, you're not trying to get in the pool. And so these kinds of considerations around like caps that would protect hair and those kinds of things are something that other people would not necessarily consider.

Dr. Carter: Absolutely. Like the economics of swimming from a black woman's perspective is a very real thing that people really do have to attach to. I’m a fish in water and I don't swim because, like you, I have to allow my blow outs to last. Sometimes I like to wear my hair natural, sometimes I like it to be blown out, but that’s my own personal preference and I don't want water to be a variable to something that I've decided for my hair to be today or tomorrow.

But the other thing here is, let's talk about kind of environmental racism for a second and the ways in which that impacts sports participation. I did a study that looked at the strong black woman archetype and its relationship to physical activity amongst women and I interviewed women in a rural area of Michigan. And one thing that they said was, on top of having to juggle a lot of different responsibilities and that playing a role in them being able to engage in physical activity, they said we don't have any sidewalks. So even if they wanted to start a walking group or just to walk, there actually isn't anywhere for them to walk. So they would have to walk in the street if they wanted to use walking as their form of physical activity. And so that was a very real issue that they themselves cannot fix.

And oftentimes, when we're thinking about sedentary behavior, we often put the responsibility on the individual in this particular society. We say they're the ones that aren't engaging in physical activity because they don't want to be active. But we fail to look at the built environment around them, particularly in rural and urban areas that have been historically ignored and marginalized. So this area is predominantly black and there's just no sidewalks so they say, hey, how am I going to walk?

The other thing was that there was a gym that had subsidized memberships. However, there was one bus that they could take to get to that gym and it only ran in the morning and in the evening. So when you think about their schedule and things like that, it just wasn't possible to be able to go to this gym and to maybe use the equipment and things like that. All these things contribute to sedentary behavior, physical activities, but when we take a step back, it's racism. It's just environmental racism, structural racism. When we know that there's greater availability in much more highly resourced areas, where sidewalks and transportation are not an issue, for people who are not black and brown to engage in physical activity.

Dr. Joy: Can you say more, Dr. Carter, about like how the strong black woman archetype kind of impacted this behavior? What did you learn from that study?

Dr. Carter: What I learned from that particular study and what I did in that study was I interviewed individuals in that rural area of Michigan. But then I interviewed about 40 women all throughout New York City–The Bronx, Brooklyn, Lower Manhattan, all black women. And what I learned is that there's a multitude of variables that are contemporarily built into this archetype of the strong black woman.

Of course, we know a woman that's resilient, that can make a way out of no way, is part of the strong black woman. But that these women were also holding on to a lot of other things that were challenges for them to be able to engage in sports and physical activity. One primary one was trauma. That many of the women experienced a variety of different forms of trauma, whether it was intimate partner violence, community-based violence, loss of a loved one, also migrating from one country to the US. And still working through that trauma and processing that trauma was a barrier for them to even think about engaging in physical activity.

Many of them said it was a world away, like why would I be thinking about engaging in regular physical activity or sports when I'm still working through the loss of my son who was murdered due to community-based violence? Or I'm still grieving, you know, the loss of this person or whatever it might be. And so when we're thinking about how the strong black woman or when we're thinking about working with black women and what might be a potential barrier or challenge for them to engage in regular physical activity, understanding what black women might be holding and the ways in which they might be socialized into the strong black woman is extremely important.

Two other things that came out of that study, amongst many, was that the strong black woman ideal was something that was passed down generationally–not just from mother to daughter but from father to daughter, from mother to son. And so it’s very deeply ingrained into the psyche of the black community and an idea that deeply is glorified amongst many different actors within the black community, making it quite hard to disrupt. Not only is it something that's reinforced by the larger white supremacist society, but it's something that's also glorified internally within our own communities, making it hard to counteract. There is this theme around anxiety and mental health related to being a strong black woman and I think that's also due to role strain, taking on so many different responsibilities. And that delayed self-care and how that impacts just the general wellbeing and mental health.

Dr. Joy: More from my conversation with Dr. Carter after the break.


Dr. Joy: Dr. Carter, I feel like there are so many places I want to go based on what you just shared. Something that I had been thinking about but you just reminded me of, is this whole idea around trauma and how we also saw that play out in the Olympics. We found out later that Sha'Carri Richardson’s mother had passed and it sounds like a part of how she was coping with that grief was through marijuana. And then we also later found out that Simone Biles had an aunt that passed while she was in Tokyo and that she was also carrying this experience of being a victim of sexual assault. And so I wonder if you can talk a little bit about we know just on a regular basis like how we just try to go to work from day to day, dealing with a traumatic experience. But then you’re, like you said, on this world stage (the world stadium) expected to perform with these traumatic experiences kind of under your belt.

Dr. Carter: Where do I start here? Because part of the strong black woman, this image is that it's a very controlling image that is used to tell black women how they're supposed to behave. That if you're not behaving like a strong black woman, then you are not engaging in the appropriate form of black womanhood. And the reason why I'm starting my response that way is because I think it sheds some light into, one, the criticism that Simone Biles received as well as some of the side eyeing that Sha'Carri Richardson received.

The strong black woman, the ways in which it's used to control black femininity and black womanhood is that you are supposed to absorb trauma, absorb the hardships of life, and wear it in some form of kind of masked grace–some form of grace. And that is a badge of glory, a badge of honor. And the moment that you say I don't want this badge, then that means that you're not being a woman. You're not being a graceful black woman and that's the problem.

When it comes to Simone Biles and Sha'Carri Richardson, you see Simone Biles saying, “look, I'm an athlete, I'm a performer.” One of the things I like about Simone Biles is that she's very clear that her profession is an athlete and there's so many other aspects to her that are outside of her as an athlete and this privileged profession. And so in understanding that, she says, “Look, my role as an athlete is not to assume this idea of being a strong black woman and to persevere through the pain that I'm holding right now, as well as this narrative that I'm supposed to be the mammy of all of the survivors and all the victims of USA gymnastics. That is not my role here. And I am actually feeling, in this moment, the kind of sum of all of that right now in the Olympics and it's time for me to take a step back.” That is her being a human being and just living in her humanity.

But unfortunately, what the strong black woman trope and ideal does is it indignifies black women and it doesn't allow them to live in their humanity. So when Simone Biles does this, people who see her through that lens are confused. I think a few things happen. I think they say, wait, you're bionic. You're vulnerable? You feel things? Wait, you experience trauma? So that first thing happens. And I think a second thing happens, is a disbelief. That, wait, not only do you experience a form of trauma, or not only are you experiencing the twisties or something like that, but are you really? Can you really just not push through and do this? Because you're bionic and as a superwoman you're also a fixer. You're someone that just figures it out. Even in the face of so much hardship and challenge, you as a black woman are designed to figure it out, and you're telling us you can't? I don't believe you.

And the same had happened with Sha'Carri Richardson. You mean that the way that you coped with this news in this situation was with marijuana? No, you're a black woman, you're just supposed to be able to do things without any additional support. You can just figure it out. And so being held so rigidly in that controlling image, when black women act outside of it, what happens to people who use that lens is that they marginalize them. And we see Sha'Carri Richardson marginalized and we see Simone Biles criticized and marginalized.

Dr. Joy: Yeah, can you talk a little bit more about this idea that you mentioned earlier? Simone Biles is like we were all rooting for them, right? Can you talk about like some of that added pressure of feeling like they have to represent not only the US (which has not typically been kind to them) but also like, okay, I’ve got to represent the black community on my back.

Dr. Carter: Gosh, I mean, I think that's the story of black athletes since the creation of sports and the integration of sports in the US. The representations, that they are the representatives of all black people. And I think for black women athletes, it is not only I am just *[inaudible 0:26:31] Not only am I representing the black community and black women, but I also have to navigate this form of classist, racist and sexist respectability. The idea of a graceful black woman within a system that is reinforcing this subtle but aggressive form of ownership of the athlete. Navigating all of this and remaining apolitical.

Sports is wonderful at maintaining a space of neutrality. It's all sports, like there's no identity here, there's no identity politics. Sports is where it's just you and competition and nowhere else. And so black women have to navigate the pressure, the burden of representing black community and being tokenized as a black woman athlete, yet not being allowed to speak on the very thing they’re being tokenized for. It's a hard space to be in, a hard place to be in, and like kudos for Simone Biles. The way in which she navigates it, like I don't even know how she does it.

I think we’ve seen Allyson Felix when she broke her silence with Nike around maternity protections. I think she said no, I’ve had enough of trying to navigate this very oppressive dance and this sport and this industry that is not and never going to love me back. And I think that it really became evident for her when she was pregnant and realized that, “Hey, I'm not getting any protections. For me as a pregnant woman, knowing that the stakes are much higher as a black woman that's pregnant. And Nike, the most powerful sports company, can't even find ways to protect me.” So I think in that realization for Allyson, it's probably where you see where she said I'm not even going to do this anymore. I'm done.

Dr. Joy: Something that it feels like has been really instrumental, at least in my vantage point, is athletes like Simone Biles and Naomi Osaka really using social media and other forms of like new media to kind of control the narrative around what their story is. Have you seen that? Like do you feel like social media and other kind of spaces of new media have really allowed them to humanize themselves more?

Dr. Carter: Yeah, I agree with you one hundred percent. I mean, I think that social media–Twitter, Instagram, TikTok–I think these have been wonderful mechanisms for athletes to be able to disrupt narratives that really are not authentic to who the athlete is. And I think the story around Naomi Osaka is probably the best example when she says, “hey, I'm not going to sit with the media.” And initially, the narrative being scripted is that she is being a defiant, young biracial woman and she then uses social media to say, “Hey, that's not the case. The media is a trigger for me and this is why. And I respect the rules and all that, but this is why.” She's using social media to reshape and disrupt a narrative that was being created not only by sports media, but unfortunately by the World Tennis Organization that was also trying to create a narrative that she was not being a cooperative athlete within the organization.

I think another thing that social media does is that it helps unify athletes around a number of different political and advocacy-oriented topics. One thing about sports, again, sports likes to be this apolitical space and this neutral space, so oppression can really survive in silence. And I think that when it comes to athletes using social media, they can connect with each person's story. They can say, wow, you're going through this, too? I didn't know because I can't share my contract with you. I can't share what this person said to me. But now they can use social media and say, yeah, this happened to me, it happened to you, and now let's begin to create a movement for change. I think the perfect example is around the maternity protections. We saw that with Allyson Felix and Alysia Montaño.

Dr. Joy: I’m glad you touched on like the World Tennis Organization’s, kind of the angle they were trying to spin there with Naomi Osaka. But it also feels like the media just in general, at least more traditional news outlets, it also feels like play a real role in shaping these narratives and really kind of playing into this idea of the strong black woman.

Dr. Carter: Absolutely. I one hundred percent agree, yeah. I mean, the media is really good at crafting a number of different racist, sexist tropes and stereotypes of black women. We saw them, I think that was in 2018 when Serena challenged a call, they were very quick to typecast her and she was actually caricatured as an angry black woman on the tennis court. Because she was acting outside of what is supposed to be, what particularly in tennis, is supposed to be typecast as a traditional form of femininity. And then for a black woman, she's supposed to just take it. And so because she said, “no, this is not a good call,” okay, now we're going to marginalize her and typecast her as an angry, attitudy black woman. And so the media does an unfortunate yet good job of quickly typecasting black women as some form of oppositional, angry, superhuman, or even at times jezebelling black women.

Dr. Joy: Yeah, all of the stereotypes.

Dr. Carter: All the stereotypes. Yeah, we’re some form of controlled image that they'd like to play us into which really just indignifies and does a job of reducing our humanity if not removing it.

Dr. Joy: More from my conversation with Dr. Carter after the break.


Dr. Joy: Dr. Carter, I haven't fully formed my thoughts on this but there's something swirling around in my mind around like resisting these superhuman attributes and like not playing into the strong black woman stereotype but also balancing that with like how incredible some black women athletes are. I think we have seen this both with Simone Biles and historically if you go back to Surya Bonaly. They both, I think, have been penalized for like coming up with these new moves that the Olympics and people don't want them to do and so they don't grade them the same. And they're like, okay, you're gonna get in trouble if you do that. So can you help me think through how do you balance? Because there feels like something racist there also, racist and gendered, in that these two women have been able to kind of do things that other people haven't been able to do but now are penalized for that.

Dr. Carter: I think the first thing is that just thinking about the strong black woman, this idea of like positioning black women as superhuman and then connecting it to sports, there's like this line there where when we look at women like Simone Biles where she's engaging in feats that the average person cannot. So you're kind of like, but she is like strong. She's doing things that like she's the only woman in the world that can do it, probably very few men can do it as well. And so there is that.

But there's this piece in the book, Forty Million Dollar Slaves, where the author talks about when we think about just racism in sports, there's a dissonance that exists within this racist sports society. That there is an admiration for the feats that black athletes can do, and in this context, black women athletes. So there's this admiration, like wow, look at what Simone Biles can do, look at what Serena Williams can do. But then there's a resentment. We admire you and we are extracting labor and entertainment from you because you are driving an engine that is profitable. However, we hate that it's you. We hate that it's a black woman and so we don't know what to do with that.

And so I think that is where we see the under-scoring of Simone Biles when she's doing these terrific feats, and other athletes as well. Where they don't give her the score, I think for the vault that she did that is named after her. I think they scored like a 6.6 and she's like, they’ve under-scored me but that's on them. I think that's where they're at. It's this dissonance of like, wow, this is done, and admiring it but a deep racist resentment that it's a black woman that's done it.

Dr. Joy: Yeah, it kind of goes back to our earlier conversation around these rules. Because what they say is like we don't want other people trying this because they could really hurt themselves, but would the rule be the same if like a non-black athlete had done it?

Dr. Carter: Absolutely not. And the other thing here is that we have to also look at this through the frame of like also just general femininity. Like what does the woman look like who’s doing it? And I think an example is Caster Semenya, the South African runner who unfortunately her biology has been policed. And I think we see the same things happen when we look at other black women. Would the same under-scoring, the same policing of black women's Olympic feats and just general performance occur if they fit more Eurocentric feminine features? Which would allow, unfortunately, these governing bodies to kind of situate them more to kind of white adjacent athletes and standards. That's a speculation but something that I wonder.

Dr. Joy: And I do wonder, too, at what point are we going to get away from looking at people's... like what are they measuring? I don't even remember all the specifics but when they said, okay, like it's too masculine or something, at what point is that going to be outlawed really as criteria for being able to participate?

Dr. Carter: Yeah, I don't know.

Dr. Joy: We have a long way to go, I think, for that.

Dr. Carter: We really have a long way to go. I think another issue here is that when we think of Simone Biles and Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka and Allyson Felix, I think we also are seeing the athletes who are beginning to transcend a system of ownership in sports and being able to attain an element of like free athletes. And so that is a quite radical status to have and I think it's also something that scares individuals who are in these controlling governing bodies, particularly because they are black women.

Dr. Joy: It's also not lost on me that it feels like a lot of these black women who have done this and like who are kind of leading this movement are largely in individual sports. Like I feel like this is the kind of thing that you probably would not see... I mean, we don't have female football leagues but like you couldn't see in the NFL or the NBA. And we saw this even with the WNBA, like that they were really on the front lines of like a lot of the social justice movements we saw, like in the past year or two.

Dr. Carter: Mm hmm, absolutely, I agree. When the WNBA players were the ones to really first speak out and engage in their different actions around advocacy, they received harsh fines. Harsh, harsh fines because it's still within the institution of the NBA that they have to navigate collectively. And so I do agree with you that it's far different for an individual athlete to say no or do the things that they would prefer to do, versus to have to really navigate a different type of system.

Dr. Joy: You've already kind of alluded to this, Dr. Carter, but I’d love to just hear you expound a little more about what you feel like this moment in sports–with all the things that we've seen and the saying no and setting boundaries–what do you think this means for black women's mental health?

Dr. Carter: I think in general, I think the world is waking up when it comes to generally like racism and sexism in the world. But I think this particular moment is like a “y'all.” Like y'all see this, right? I think that, one, just the aha moments that people are having because just around the racist and sexist oppression that exists and how it's demonstrated in the criticisms that Naomi Osaka and Simone Biles received, how people are waking up to that is just so crucial.

The other thing here is that it speaks to the pressures that athletes experience in general and that athletes need space to be able to institute and constitute boundaries. This idea that sports is one hundred percent healthy... And I'm not saying that it's detrimental to health but that it's a workplace environment and that we need to begin to situate professional sports as a workplace environment. And for elite athletes, when they say, “hey, I need a day off, I need a sick day,” then it needs to be treated that way, not as someone being enslaved to a system that is just that. Like this is not an athlete being a slave to a system; this is an employee and they're saying that they need a sick day. And so there needs to be rules and policies that really begin to create a healthy workplace environment for our elite athletes. That way, they can care for themselves long term in a variety of ways.

The other thing is that we've got to be able to protect our elite athletes from fans and from media. This idea that they have to engage with media, this idea that they have to perform, even if at a potential detriment to their own physical and psychological safety, is deeply inappropriate. We wouldn't make any other person do that and so why we would have that for elite athletes seems deeply, deeply, deeply troubling to me and I'm sure everyone else.

And so this is a crucial time just when it comes to the institution of professional elite sports. But then when we bring it down to college sports and high school sports, I think this is a great and important time to be talking about psychological health and wellbeing with youth athletes and high school athletes. That, hey, look at Simone Biles and Naomi Osaka, and even Michael Phelps. Like with the conversation around what mental health is, what mental illness is, talking to coaches about having a dynamic way of coaching that supports youth development holistically, particularly for young black girls, now is the time to really lean into this.

Because sports should be a place where kids are learning the As, Bs and Cs of life, sports and life, and if we can bring that to our young black girls, that way they grow into healthy black girls. Using Simone Biles and the Naomi Osaka that, hey look, she said no, she said her health first and you can say that too. I'm getting chills just even thinking about it.

Dr. Joy: Dr. Carter, you already mentioned Forty Million Dollar Slaves as a reference point for some of this conversation. Are there other books or other resources that you would want to offer to the community that they may enjoy? Kind of based on what you’ve shared today?

Dr. Carter: I’ve got to shout out my book. It is a terrific edited volume, Feminist Applied Sport Psychology: From Theory to Practice. In that book, we really run down, there's a section where we're just black feminist politics and sports, everything we just talked about in this podcast. Also, we go into indigenous space and indigenous practices in sports as well as the experiences of trans athletes and trans women in sports. So if you're interested in the diversity of sports but through a feminist womanist and black feminist lens, please pick up the book. It's a great book.

Dr. Joy: Perfect. And where can we find you, Dr. Carter? What is your website as well as any social media handles you'd like to share?

Dr. Carter: You know, I was gonna say you can find me outside but...

Dr. Joy: No, we cannot.

Dr. Carter: You can find me at @DrLeeja on Instagram. You can also find me at my nonprofit, which is @Coalition_Equity and also at

Dr. Joy: Perfect, we'll be sure to include that in the show notes. Thank you so much for spending some time with us today, Dr. Carter. I really appreciate it.

Dr. Carter: No, it's my pleasure. And thank you for the great conversation and some of the laughs in between.

Dr. Joy: I'm so glad Dr. Carter was able to share her expertise with us today. To learn more about her and her work, visit the show notes at And don't forget to text two of your girls and tell them to check out the episode as well.

If you're looking for a therapist in your area, be sure to check out our therapist directory at

And if you want to continue digging into this topic or just be in community with other sisters, come on over and join us in the Sister Circle. It's our cozy corner of the internet designed just for black women. You can join us at Thank y'all so much for joining me again this week. I look forward to continuing this conversation with you all real soon. Take good care.


Discover the transformative power of healing in community in Dr. Joy Harden Bradford’s debut book, Sisterhood Heals. Order your copy now!

Sisterhood heals
Order Now

Looking for the UK Edition?
Order here

Discover the transformative power of healing in community in Dr. Joy Harden Bradford’s debut book, Sisterhood Heals. Order your copy now!

Looking for the UK Edition? Order here