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Transcript: The Visibly Invisible

The full episode transcript for The Visibly Invisible

In Their Court: The Experiment

NBC News

Episode 3: The Visibly Invisible

ARCHIVAL RECORDING: And the ESPY goes to Paige Bueckers.

IBTIHAJ MUHAMMAD, "IN THEIR COURT" PODCAST HOST: It's July 2021. We're at the ESPYS hosted by ESPN. These awards honor the very best in sports, and this year Paige Bueckers, a freshman on University of Connecticut's basketball team has snagged the best college athlete award in the women's category.

PAIGE BUECKERS, BASKETBALL PLAYER, UNIVERSITY OF CONNECTICUT: I'm nervous. A huge shout-out to my friends, and my family, and everybody that helped me get to be where I am today.

MUHAMMAD: Paige is receiving this award because she's had an unbelievable year, 168 assists, the most of any freshman in the program's history. But you can hear she's not quite sure the spotlight should be on her.

BUECKERS: With the light that I have now as a white woman celebrated here, I want to show a light on black women. They don't get the media coverage that they deserve.

MUHAMMAD: The audience starts cheering. The camera from the broadcast pans to some of the black players in the room. Paige then doubles down on the value black women bring to society and this sport.

BUECKERS: They've given so much to this sport, and the community, and society as a whole and their value is undeniable.

MUHAMMAD: Paige Bueckers is a 5'11", blonde-hared, white woman. That's the great irony. A young white woman is standing on a stage before a crowd of her black peers, trying to shine a light on the issues that affect them.

BUECKERS: In the WNBA last season, 80 percent of the winners were black, but they got half the amount of coverage as the white athletes, so I think it's time for change. Sports media holds the key to storylines (ph) and tell us who's valuable, and you have told the world that I matter today, and thank you, but I think we should use this power together to also celebrate black women.

MUHAMMAD: This moment launched a conversation across social media and got people talking about how black players are represented in basketball. Basketball is one of the most visibly black sports, and yet black women still don't operate on an even playing field with their peers.

I'm Ibtihaj Muhammad, and this is "In Their Court", a series about 50 years of Title IX and 50 years of women's basketball. Today we talk about the visible invisible, the black women of college basketball and the WNBA who make up a huge portion of players in the game and yet are often overlooked.

Carolyn Peck is six foot four. This matters because when she was going to school as a kid in Jefferson City, Tennessee, things got tricky during class photos.

CAROLYN PECK, FORMER WOMEN'S BASKETBALL COACH, UNIVERSITY OF TENNESSEE: When you line up for pictures, I was behind all the boys. Like, they would line you up shortest to tallest, and she would always just kind of poke me in the back and say, "Carolyn, stand up straight, walk with confidence, and be the best that you could be."

MUHAMMAD: The woman telling her to straighten up and act confident, that's Carolyn's mom.

PECK: We talked a lot about just the opportunities or lack of not only just for women but black women. She would tell me as a black female you have to perform at 150 percent to be considered average. That was kind of the mindset, but she never allowed me to feel like there was anything I couldn't do or that I didn't belong, and that was no matter what color I am or whether I'm male or female. You belong.

MUHAMMAD: And Carolyn definitely belonged on the basketball court. During her senior year in high school she averaged 35 points and over 13 rebounds per game, earning the title of Tennessee's Ms. Basketball. Her mother was giving her an important code to live by, especially in the early Title IX years.

PECK: Legislation for Title IX came about in 1972. So at the time, I was 6-years old, I think. And so, little league baseball was starting up, so I took my glove. I was going to play, too. And when my mom went up to sign me up, they said this is not for girls. And I'm like, why? I play with boys, you know, at the rec center every day.

And you know, she took it upon herself with a lot of other moms to say, you know, what is there for girls? And so, we actually started a softball league in our hometown.

MUHAMMAD: Nothing was going to get in the way of Carolyn getting the opportunity she deserved.

PECK: My mom saw the value in being involved in sports and being involved in a team and knowing how to work together. So she had me on the swim team. I played softball, volleyball, and basketball. It was like I was in the Girl Scouts. I took ballet, tap, and jazz. I mean, she just was one that was always keeping all of us just involved in things to really stretch our opportunities.

MUHAMMAD: Which is probably why after playing college basketball at Vanderbilt University and then playing pro-ball in Italy and Japan she started wondering about her next opportunity.

PECK: When I came back, I was at a tryout camp for USA basketball. I was just watching. And Mickie DeMoss, who was an assistant coach for Pat Summitt at Tennessee came over to me and she said, Carolyn, now that you're not playing in Japan anymore, what are you going to do next?

And I said, well, I'm still trying to figure that out.

MUHAMMAD: It was 1993. Carolyn was talking to that Mickie DeMoss, the one who helped start the Louisiana Tech Lady Techsters.

PECK: And so, she said, have you thought about coaching?

And I really hadn't. But I lied and I said, yes.

And she said, well, we may have an opening at Tennessee. I'm going to talk to Pat.

And so, I was like, OK.

So I go back to Nashville, and I am asleep. I was working a basketball camp and didn't have to be there until 9. And my phone rings and it's about 6:30 in the morning and I answer it and the person on the other line says, can I speak to Carolyn Peck, please?

And I said, may I ask who's calling?

And the person says, this is Pat Summitt.

MUHAMMAD: Yes. The eight-time national champion, five-time Naismith Coach of the Year, and Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient Pat Summitt. Wanted to make sure you're all following.

PECK: Pat Summitt was and still is women's basketball. When you speak of women's basketball, you think of Pat Summitt. I mean, she's won eight championships at the University of Tennessee. She's coached -- I can't even count all of the All-Americans that she has helped to grow and become great athletes, great women, great people.

ARCHIVAL RECORDING: Comment from Pat Summitt and her seventh season at Tennessee. Her record 175 and 47. She's an outstanding coach.

PECK: So I was like, well, could you hold a second?

And so, I'm like clearing my throat, trying to make it sound like I'm awake. And so, I was like, hi, Pat. How are you?

Pat had recruited me out of high school, so we had a bit of a relationship.

MUHAMMAD: Remember, Carolyn had grown up in Tennessee where she was a decorated high school basketball player, so it's not surprising that the Lady Vols had tried to recruit her, but still this phone call was intimidating.

PECK: And she said that Mickie had mentioned to her that I would be interested in coaching. They were going to have a camp coming up for two weeks. Would I like to come to Knoxville and work their basketball camp and we could get to know each other and see if it's a fit. So I'm like sure.

MUHAMMAD: Carolyn ended up getting the job and it completely leveled up her game.

PECK: The thing that Pat did for me was, put me in a position to be exposed to a lot of great people. That first summer I had an opportunity to go to the Black Coaches Convention. It was in Orlando, Florida.

When I walked into the hotel lobby, there sat Vivian Stringer, Marian Washington, Mariana Freeman, George Raveling (ph), John Chaney. I mean, it was like all of these Icons that I had looked up to, and followed, and saw and went, wow, you know, these are black people doing things.

When I met Coach Stringer, she pointed out to me that I was the first black woman that Pat had hired. I didn't even realize it when she hired me.

MUHAMMAD: C. Vivian Stringer would go on to be the head coach of the women's basketball team at Rutgers University. Making her one of the few black head coaches of the time.

PECK: She told me, with that comes great responsibility. I had to do a great job so that someone else would get this same opportunity.

I would prove that we can coach and that we can be an asset to the game.

MUHAMMAD: Peck's coaching career was launched by not just one but two women in positions of power. After all, there's a chance she would have never known about the Tennessee gig if Mickie DeMoss hadn't mentioned it to her.

And that first job it kicked off a multi decade coaching career.

PECK: My last year at Tennessee we made it to the finals and lost to Connecticut in the championship game. And after that, I got offered to go to the University of Kentucky and be their recruiting coordinator and their full-time assistant.

I did that one season and then Nell Fortner got the head job at Purdue. And when Nell got the job at Purdue, she called me and she's like, Carolyn, you coming with me?

I said, absolutely. I had known Nell from her time at Louisiana Tech. We were big competitors when Tennessee and Louisiana Tech would play, but we were good friends off the court. And so I was like, absolutely.

I coached with Nell for years. She got the job to become the Olympic coach and had to leave Purdue. And when she left, then Purdue offered me the head job and I became the head coach.

MUHAMMAD: This was a big deal for many reasons. Carolyn had built her coaching career during a time when the number of women coaches across most university sports was declining. According to NCAA data, today only 41 percent of head coaches in women's sports at the NCAA level are women. And just 4 percent are black women.

PECK: Being a black woman and a head coach at Purdue, because I went into homes and talked to moms and dads about allowing their daughter to come play for me, I felt the responsibility to not only to develop them as basketball players but also to be a role model for them, especially for the players of color.

I had to be successful. I had to go out and do a good job because if I didn't get it done at Purdue it would lessen the probability that Purdue may follow that up with giving another black woman an opportunity.

MUHAMMAD: That's at least how Carolyn Peck saw it. And that pressure to succeed came to a head in 1999 when she led the Purdue women's basketball team to the NCAA championship game.

ARCHIVAL RECORDING: The final women's championship game of the millennium promises to be a memorable one. This could be a matchup of epic proportions.

PECK: I remember the last seven seconds on the clock and Katie Douglas, who had lost her father to cancer before she even came to Purdue just before her freshman year, dribbling the basketball out. His dream was for her to win a national championship.

And then, I looked down at the bench and I think about the commitment of the players and staff to stay true to what we had set out to do, that we could finally say, mission accomplished. That we had gotten it done and we had done it together.

I don't think it was until after the fact, when I was walking off the court and a reporter asked me about being the first African American woman to win a national championship.

MUHAMMAD: She was the first and you can hear the pride in Robin Roberts's voice as she announced.

ARCHIVAL RECORDING: And Carolyn Peck is the first black woman to win a national title, 45 second-half points by Purdue. They got it done.

PECK: I hadn't thought about that. I had to go back and review. I mean it wasn't until I got home, I understood how big the celebration had been in West Lafayette. People were going nuts in the streets, they were celebrating. You know, it was huge.

And then, I'm back in my condo and get a blocked number call. And they said, we're making sure the line is clear, the president of the United States is going to be calling you.

And I'm like, what? And so, I did get a phone call from Bill Clinton. He watched the game and he talked about different events in the game that had happened. So that was pretty cool.

But then after that was over, I mean just to be honest with you, a year after that passed it was done. It was done. And nobody really cared that Purdue had won a national championship or that I was the first African American woman to win a national championship.

MUHAMMAD: Carolyn had felt so much pressure to succeed. But when she finally did it still hadn't been enough to create lasting change. After the break, Carolyn gets into why there are so few black coaches in the country. And why she thinks it's so hard for the ones that do make it to really succeed.


PECK: When a black woman takes a job, the number one thing is not how much money you're going to make, it is important, but it's how much money are you going to be able to have to hire the staff that you need. Because more times than not, when a black woman is given a job at a major university, it's because she has been able to attract players as an assistant, as that recruiting coordinator.

MUHAMMAD: That's Carolyn Peck again, she's describing the transition from being an assistant coach to the head coach of a team.

PACK: When you move over to that first seat, now you need to hire another you. You need to hire someone who can help bring in players because, as the head coach, you've got more responsibilities.

You have to have dedication in marketing. And that's not just selling tickets but helping you to get connected in the community because the community is who supports women's basketball, because players want to play in front of a crowd.

What are your facilities like? Because kids now like things, they like to know how things look. You know, where am I going to spend the majority of my time? Because I'm either going to be in class, or I'm going to be at my practice facility, or I'm probably going to be in the locker room or I'm going to be studying.

And so, what's that like? Because you've got to compete with all the other schools that have it, and if you don't, you're already behind eight-ball.

MUHAMMAD: Carolyn's point is any head coach is juggling a ton of different tasks trying to figure out what to prioritize. When you get to that level, it's about so much more than the game itself.

PECK: You take over a program that needs to be taken off life support, then it's not going to happen overnight. And a realistic expectation, when you've come from a team that hasn't won or only won single-digit games, the turnaround in year one to two probably until three because you've got to change a culture. And you need the help and the resources to help change that culture.

MUHAMMAD: Coaching is the kind of job where, if you're given adequate resources or time, you're basically being set up to fail. It's not a solo sport and it can't be done without a university's support.

PECK: And I've seen black women take bad jobs or jobs with the unrealistic expectations to happen in a short amount of time, not that it couldn't have happened but that it would have happened if given more time.

So as black women, we have to just be really intentional on jobs that we take.

MUHAMMAD: Carolyn knows she's onto something because of one black coach's success story, Dawn Staley.

PECK: When you look at what Dawn Staley has done at South Carolina that's amazing. And that was a program that was on the decline.

MUHAMMAD: The legendary Dawn Staley was a member of Tara VanDerveer's 1996 Olympic team.

ARCHIVAL RECORDING: Breaking that with 107 today as Dawn Stanley leaps into the arms of Lisa Leslie.

ARCHIVAL RECORDING: One hundred and seven points, Mike (ph), and they did it in a very entertaining fashion.

MUHAMMAD: She's a three-time Olympic gold medalist and went on to play for the WNBA where she was eventually named one of the top 15 players in the league's history.

In 2000, she took a coaching job at Temple University. But another school, the University of South Carolina was interested in Coach Staley.

PECK: Dawn told me the story of the A.D. that hired her. The A.D. brought Dawn in. Dawn looked around and answered the questions, gave her short answers that she'll give because you've got to chip away, and you've got to build her trust.

The A.D. then came to Philadelphia and rode around with Dawn in her neighborhood where she grew up to really get to know her.

MUHAMMAD: The University of South Carolina eventually won Dawn over, and she became head coach of the Gamecocks in 2008. Watching Dawn lead this team, Carolyn started to get a feeling.

PECK: I felt like she could be the second black woman to win a national championship.

MUHAMMAD: Carolyn had been the first black woman to win a national championship in college basketball. She wanted to sow the seeds for the second, and luckily a way to do that had already been seeded in her mind.

PECK: My last year at Tennessee we went to the championship game, and we lost to Connecticut. They won the national championship.

And the very next year, I went to the University of Kentucky. Well, at the end of the season I was at the Final Four. And Tennessee had made it to the championship game, and they won the national championship. And I was sitting with all my friends from Tennessee in the Tennessee section. And so, as everybody's gathering on the floor, I see Pashen.

MUHAMMAD: Carolyn is talking about Pashen Thompson, a black player on the University of Tennessee's women's basketball team.

PECK: And she's waving me to come down on the court. So, I down on the court, they bring the ladders out, the players are climbing their ladder to cut their piece of net down.

And when it's Pashen's turn, Pashen -- I see her cut two pieces of the net. And when she came down, she walked over to me. And she handed me a piece of her net. And she said, Coach Peck, I want you to keep this piece of the net until you win one of your own.

MUHAMMAD: Which she did in 1999. But she held onto that piece of net until 2015. At this point, Peck had moved away from coaching and was a commentator for ESPN.

PECK: Every time I talked to Dawn I'd learn something. Every time I talked to Dawn I walked away going, this woman is making a difference. What am I doing?

And so, in 2015 I walked over after one practice. And it was just a private conversation between Dawn and I, and I gave Dawn the piece of the net and I said, you keep this until you win one of your own. And then after you do that, then you pass on your piece of the net.

MUHAMMAD: The net was becoming a symbol, passed from one black woman to another. A way of saying, I see you, you've got this.

PECK: And in 2017, I wasn't working the Final Four. I was home. I was here in Nashville, and I was out to eat with another couple with my husband and I. We're watching the game on TV, and I see that South Carolina's going to win it.

ARCHIVAL RECORDING: Fans are starting to make some noise. They're going to party tonight here in Texas. Final seven seconds, South Carolina has won the national championship.

PECK: And I'm sitting there, and tears start to come down my eyes because I'm like, she finally did it. So, as we're watching and we're sitting there, we're celebrating, my phone starts blowing up. And I'm like, what is going on?

I then start reading the texts. And they're like, that's incredible that you have Dawn a piece of your net.

DAWN STALEY, HEAD WOMEN'S BASKETBALL COACH, UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH CAROLINA: I carried this in a mesh bag draped over my backpack, and today was the only time that I took it out. I took it out before I walked out here for the game. And I just want a constant reminding of how hard it is. And the fact that I shared this with so many other black coaches that -- they really don't believe that this can ever take place in their lifetime. But it can.

PECK: She had pulled out that piece of the net at the press conference and told everybody the story of how she had originally gotten my piece of the net. I mean, trust me, this was a private moment between she and I, to help her feel what Pashen Thompson made me feel when she shared her net with me. And now, Dawn has shared that story with the whole country.

MUHAMMAD: Dawn would go on to pass pieces of her net to other black coaches too. In a way, Carolyn Peck had built a literal network of black women. She was showing black women everywhere that they could and would lead successful basketball teams all the way to NCAA title.

PECK: From being that sixth grader and then going as an assistant coach to making $16,000, to being a full-time assistant and making $40,000, to being a head coach at $90,000, to seeing Dawn Staley make $3 million a year, that's progress.

MUHAMMAD: And it wasn't just black coaches that were receiving this message, players were listening too. In particular, a burgeoning superstar who had helped Dawn Staley and South Carolina win that championship.

ARCHIVAL RECORDING: A'ja Wilson and the Gamecocks are number one, for the first time in school history, NCAA champions of women's college basketball.

MUHAMMAD: It's 2018, we're at the University of South Carolina's Colonial Life Arena where the Gamecocks are about to play their final home game of the regular season.

The crowd fills the stands. The cheer squad and the marching band line the courtside. Draped on every chair in the audience is a bright string of faux white pearls, an extra special treat, because tonight is no ordinary home game. It's the school's farewell to their pride and joy, the star of the team, A'ja Wilson.

You probably recognize the name. Today, A'ja is a star forward for the Las Vegas Aces. A 6'4" wonder known for her sharp skills, big smile and for wearing her Grandma Hattie's pearls. She's one of the WNBA's finest.

ARCHIVAL RECORDING: Hugs all around and what a senior night for A'ja Wilson, 27 points, a career-high, 24 rebounds. Gamecocks have secured a top four seed in the SEC Tournament. In our senior night, A'ja Wilson leads the way.

MUHAMMAD: In 2018, A'ja was still a college player. She had just led the University of South Carolina and her home state to their first-ever NCAA Championship the year before. And over the course of her college career, she would break a string of records for herself and her team.

In just a handful of years A'ja would become the most decorated athlete at South Carolina and now she was taking her final bow.

ARCHIVAL RECORDING: City of Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin proclaims February 22, 2018 to be A'ja Wilson Day and is also awarding Aja a Key to the City. Congratulations again, A'ja.

MUHAMMAD: Four years prior, ever division one women's basketball program was jumping at the opportunity to recruit A'ja, then the 2014 Naismith National High School Player of the Year.

A'JA RIYADH WILSON, BASKETBALL PLAYER, LAS VEGAS ACES: The recruiting process was a lot of fun, but it was tough, because you're 16-years-old and you have to make a choice for four years at the age of 16. Like, that's tough on a kid.

And for me, I didn't know what I wanted, because every school I went to was the best place on Earth. Every school had the best facilities and the best coaches. And the colors were cute. And the mascots this (ph). And the guys are cute. Like, everybody had the same things. So, I'm like, oh my gosh, how am I supposed to pick?

MUHAMMAD: Most of the schools were similar in another way, the coaches.

WILSON: There were white males and there were white women. Don't get me wrong, they're great people, but it just felt like the connection wasn't fully there. And that's why I was like, oh, I don't really know.

MUHAMMAD: There was one other option for A'ja, though she was reluctant to take it. She could stay in her home state just a short distance from where she grew up, from where her grandmother had grown up. She could play for University of South Carolina's Coach Dawn Staley. But at first, she wasn't into it.

WILSON: I would push her aside. And finally, when I went on my official visit to South Carolina I think the best story I that I remember was, we get there and the whole Colonial Life Arena had different videos of people from South Carolina just showing that there's no place like home, trying to get me to stay in South Carolina.

And when I thought about it, I was just like, Coach Staley as a black woman has really changed the culture of a Power 5 school in SEC. Like, you don't hear that at all. Because first of all, SEC of course is football, and that's white men coaching.

But when it came to a black woman that's changing the culture and the history of women's basketball at South Carolina it was incredible. Like I couldn't wrap my head around the fact that the things that she was doing. And I had -- and I probably didn't even notice this until now that I am gone because I just looked at her as like my coach.

But now that I've gone the things that she had done as a black woman in the SEC in the south, like, it's mind-blowing. Like it's crazy, she was a woman that has done everything that I wanted to do. And I felt like she would be the perfect person to be coached by because she would tell me everything.

And especially even down to just being a black woman in this world. And playing the game and going to the next level like that's how special our relationship was.

MUHAMMAD: For the next four years A'ja would train under Dawn Staley and get her chance to work with an exceptional coach who looked like her and understood her. To A'ja that was more precious than any championship.

WILSON: I am just glad that I was a part of her journey for four years and was able to bring a championship to South Carolina.

Because it wasn't easy, I still don't know how she does it, and still a rocket (ph) smile on her face because a lot of people always ask -- I remember when we won the national championship, we had no white girls on our team and they were going at her for not recruiting them.

And I'm like, we just won a national championship, we just brought its first national championship in women's basketball. And you guys are worrying about this woman and who she recruits. Something that she can't control. And that right there I was like, I love playing for this woman because that did not break her.

And from there I was like I'm forever in debt and Coach Staley because she helped change my life and mold me into who I am today.

MUHAMMAD: Part of what empowered A'ja to be so great was having the support of a coach who shared her lived experience, who she could trust. A coach would fight to give a young black player every opportunity she deserved. That was beyond rare. Just how rare?

Well, in 2022 with the addition of two new hires, there were just 12 black female head coaches across 65 Power Five schools. It's a pretty astonishing number, and it makes the fact that A'ja found a mentor like Dawn Staley years prior even more astonishing.

STALEY: I'm proud to stand here as A'ja Wilson's college coach. I am divinely grateful because she chose to come to the University of South Carolina, it did take a while for her to make the decision. There's not a player that has graced Colonial Life Arena the way A'ja Wilson has.

MUHAMMAD: The voice you're hearing is Dawn Staley, speaking at a statue dedication ceremony for her former star player in 2021. By then A'ja had shot to success, she had joined the WNBA, signed a deal with Nike, and was on her way to the Tokyo Olympics where she'd eventually take home a gold medal.

ARCHIVAL RECORDING: Starting with (ph) 6'5" A'ja Wilson in her first Olympic Games. But she is playing like a veteran, leading this team in field goal percentage to start.

She can run the floor. She can rebound. She has a nice shot from the high post. But in the low block, especially playing high-low with Breanna Stewart, she can play the power game. She likes to finish with that left hand, and she has been playing very strong in their first three exhibition games.

MUHAMMAD: And now, her alma matter was erecting a statue of her likeness on school grounds.

STALEY: The statue represents women's basketball as a whole and I haven't done the research, so I could be wrong, I don't know if there's another women's basketball player that has a statue on somebody's campus. If there is, I know it didn't take just three years to get it done.

MUHAMMAD: Dawn was right, the larger-than-life brown statue stands outside A'ja's former home curt. And is one of the few statues dedicated to a woman athlete. Here's what A'ja had to say about the monument that day.

WILSON: This moment is bigger than me. This moment is for all those who have sacrificed for me to stand here today. This moment is for every girl who was told she wasn't enough. Wasn't strong enough, wasn't smart enough, was too short, too skinny, too fat. It is truly a beautiful thing when someone believes in you.

Thank you for taking a chance and believing in this wide-eyed black girl. I should have brought tissues with this white suit, oh man.

MUHAMMAD: This statue was a tremendous accomplishment. A symbol to countless black girls like A'ja, girls who love basketball and make up a huge percentage of players across the country. Girls who aren't always given the recognition they deserve.

WILSON: As I close my heart is very, very full. My grandmother Hattie Rakes grew up in this area, actually, four blocks from the governor's mansion to be exact. When she was a child, she couldn't even walk on the grounds of the University of South Carolina.

She would have to walk around the campus just to get to where she needed to go. If only she was here today to see that the same grounds she had to walk around, it now is the same grounds that houses a statue of her granddaughter.

MUHAMMAD: And so, even though there's no shortage of black players in the WNBA, A'ja's success story is still a pretty rare accomplishment. She represents the hard work and the hopes of both the women who came before her, and the ones who will follow.

WILSON: To every girl, especially every black girl, remember, you can do anything you put your mind to. Have faith, work hard. Haters are going to always hate but always keep your eye on the prize and be unapologetically you.

Remember, all things happen in God's time, and he is always on time. To everyone who's paved the way, I stand here today as a result of your selflessness, courageous, and trailblazing actions. It is my promise, my obligation to carry on the legacy you've created for all women who come after me.

MUHAMMAD: A'ja Wilson had literally and figuratively become a symbol of black accomplishment and success. Her image had power, and she was among a growing group of female athletes who were realizing that their names and images had power too.

Next time on "In Their Court" we're in the present day at the center of a battle for athletes' rights. Student-athletes are realizing that the media, sports organizations, and universities have been profiting off of their names and images for decades. And now, they're looking to take some of that power back.

UNKNOWN: Most of the 50 years that Title IX has been in existence has been a play, defense kind of situation. The backlash has been huge, it has been constant. Most of its existence has been fighting for its existence. I think the next 50 years need to be about how do we tweak, change, amend Title IX to now take it to another level.

MUHAMMAD: At this point in Title IX's history, it doesn't feel like we're nearing the end of the battle. In some ways, it feels like this is just the beginning.

"In Their Court" is written and produced by Preeti Varathan and Abe Selby. Our associate producer is Olivia Richard. Additional production help from Amelia Acosta, Sarah Hughes, Rachel Thompson (ph), and Bob Mallory.

Original music by Jesse McGinty. Sound design by Rick Kwan. Bryson Barnes is our technical director. Steven Roberts and Reid Cherlin are our Executive Producers. Madeleine Haeringer is our head of editorial. Special thanks to the University of South Carolina.