SA female football player grabs national headlines

Published 9:41 am Saturday, October 15, 2011

COURTLAND—Southampton Academy Athletic Director Dale Marks on Thursday fielded phone calls from Baton Rouge, Idaho and Texas.

All offered support to eighth-grade football player Mina Johnson, whose story about a North Carolina team refusing to play the Raiders because “she’s a girl” went national.

“It’s kind of funny to me,” Marks said. “Initially I thought the story was going to be human interest — the first girl from our school to play football. And then, of course, it became a story that involved her not being able to play.”

Among media outlets reporting the story were CNN, the San Francisco Chronicle, ABC Action News, NBC, Larry Brown Sports,,, WITN-TV in Greenville, N.C., and The State Press at Arizona State University. On Monday, Mina appeared on NewsChannel 3 WTKR in Hampton Roads.

Katie Dowd with the San Francisco Chronicle said they picked up the story because “it jumped out to all of us as something the average reader would be very interested in.”

“Every so often you hear about a female athlete playing football — which is unusual on its own — but this had the added storyline of being about women’s rights,” Dowd told The Tidewater News on Friday. “It’s one of those topics that everyone has an opinion about and really facilitates an interesting conversation.”

Kate Archer, marketing consultant and contributing writer for The Tidewater News, broke the story after learning Northeast Academy in Lasker threatened not to play Southampton Academy’s junior varsity squad if Mina played. Mina, who on Sept. 22 sacked Rocky Mount’s quarterback four times, opted to sit out. The Raiders rolled over Northeast 60-0 during the home game on Oct. 6.

Word of God Christian Academy also considered not playing Southampton Academy on Thursday, Oct. 27, for the same reason. That’s changed.

“They have agreed to play, but initially when I called them, they said it had to be taken to the athletic director,” Marks said. “The coaches were fine with it, but the administration (initially) was not that comfortable with Mina playing.”

Mina said she is surprised at the reaction to her story.

“A lot of people have been calling the school and telling them they support me,” the 12-year-old said. “My mom got a call from a magazine in Arizona that wants to interview me.”

Mina plans to honor the magazine’s request.

An honor-roll student and daughter of Gregory and Mona Johnson, Mina plans to practice hard for the game against Word of God, although she was disappointed with Wednesday’s 68-14 loss to Hobgood Academy.

Marks thinks the publicity is great.

“Almost everything I hear has been positive,” he said. “We did have a couple e-mails from people who felt the equality thing about girls playing football. There’s been a lot of publicity for your school, which is good.”

Marks noted that Mina has handled it well.

“The only thing I hate about it is it sort of shed a bad light on Northeast. I didn’t want that to happen,” Marks said. “I spoke to Northeast and told them initially all we wanted was a human-interest story.”