The more Billie Jean King talked about the past, the more enthusiastic he became about the future.
King, 79, a tennis and gender equality grand champion, said she hopes to invest more in women’s sport. She even has many teams. more leagues. The number of female owners is increasing. More racial diversity, more data, more access, and more opportunities.
Not content to celebrate her history, she charged crosscourt after crosscourt. She was too busy creating a template for tomorrow.
“Equal investment is the most important thing,” she said in a telephone interview from London, where she was attending Wimbledon this year. “When I talk to a CEO, I ask him, her, or whoever: ‘Are you spending as much money on women’s sports as you do on men’s sports?’ That’s the magic question.”
it always was.
This summer marked the 50th anniversary of the U.S. Open awarding equal prize money to men and women, making it the first major tennis tournament to do so. King, who has won her 39 major titles, made that milestone possible through her relentless drive and securing corporate sponsorship behind her backstage.
On the eve of the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup, set to showcase the rise of women’s soccer and the equal pay movement led by the US Women’s National Team, Dr. King’s influence still ripples through the sports ecosystem.
“She works just as hard today as she did 50 years ago,” said Stacey Allaster, chief executive of the professional tennis division of the United States Tennis Association. First female U.S. Open manager, Said. “And she’s so focused, you could say she’s obsessed. She lives by her beliefs. It’s that sport is about changing society, and it’s about gaining.” It is a giver, not a thing.”
King and his longtime business partner and wife, Ilana Cross, invested in 6 sports. in June, it was announced Billie Jean King Enterprises Together with Los Angeles Dodgers majority owner Mark Walter and his wife Kimbra Walter, he will help run a new six-team women’s ice hockey league starting in January.
Cross, 67, a former doubles champion from South Africa and CEO of BJK Enterprises, said: “I believe this is transformative, but we didn’t have the platform that we thought the sport needed. ‘ said.
She acknowledged that the road to establishing a successful women’s hockey league was “a long road” (streaked with past failures), but praised the Walters’ commitment to women’s sport. “That belief sends an incredible message to the rest of the investment community,” said Cross.
In 1970, King and eight other players, enraged that men were earning eight times more than women’s prize money in a tournament, flashed a $1 deal as an offshoot of the women’s professional tennis tour. Back up. Known as the “Original Nine,” the women risked suspension from tennis authorities, but the strategy paid off. At Wimbledon in 1973, Dr. King led the players in a vote to establish what is now called the Women’s Tennis Association.
It was a great time for women’s sports. In 1972, Congress enacted Title IX outlawing sexism in schools, leading to the creation of sports programs that produced generations of female athletes. Against this backdrop, world number one King won the French Open, Wimbledon and US Open singles titles in 1972.
In New York, she was furious that she earned $10,000, $15,000 less than US Open men’s champion Irie Nastase. King said she recalled meeting tournament director Bill Talbert at the referee’s hut at the time.
Turning a chair to face him in the cramped space, she argued that fan polls showed great interest in women’s tennis. She then revealed that she was her ace. She secured a sponsor, Bristol-Myers deodorant Van, to make up for the difference in her prize pool. Equal prize money was officially recognized in 1973.
Just weeks after the 1973 US Open, King defeated former No. 1 Bobby Riggs in the Battle of the Sex spectacle that put gender equality on the world stage.
“I can’t believe it’s been 50 years, Boink!” said Mr. King.
This year’s US Open, which kicks off on August 28, will celebrate Equity Day in a variety of ways, including King posters, opening night tributes and the ‘Equity Lounge’ at the venue of the 2006 US Open in Flushing. will be commemorated.was renamed USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.
On his way to the office, Mr. Alastor touched a sign bearing Dr. King’s motto, “Pressure is a privilege.”
Former WTA secretary Allaster said King was “an approachable leader” not just for her, but for rookies and superstars alike. Allaster called Venus Williams “the modern-day Billie Jean King.” That’s because Williams, in her prime, lobbied Wimbledon officials and, by extension, the French Open, to give equal prize money to women.
King’s claims have always transcended tennis. she started Women’s Sports Foundation Founded in 1974 to develop sporting opportunities for girls and women from Title IX onwards. After publicly coming out as gay in 1981 and losing a lot of support, she became a gay rights activist.
phidra nightKing, a World Rugby Hall of Famer and former chairman of the Women’s Sports Foundation, said she had created an inclusive culture for the group. “Through her LGBTQ+ perspective and her courage, she has inspired many other areas and inspired people to come together,” Knight said in an interview.
Beyond King’s encouragement for her being black and gay, Knight cherishes what King taught her to approach rugby officials to improve business opportunities for women’s sport. said.
Another former president and former women’s hockey Olympian, Angela Ruggiero, is following King’s lessons. she, Sports Innovation Labis a market research firm that uses analytics to understand the digitally savvy sports fan. According to her research, Fans of all genders react to women’s sports. She often brainstorms her sessions with Mr. King, and Mr. King never stops asking questions.
“We’re going back and forth on how we can put more money into women’s sports,” Ruggiero said. “She’ll be thriving on the edge of her seat. It’s her nature to be the agent of her change.”
King said he secretly advised footballer Julie Foudy and eight teammates in 1995 to keep their fair contracts and stand by their young players. The team won his 1996 Olympics and the 1999 Women’s World Cup at the Rose Bowl where he won in front of 90,185 fans and sparked a frenzy in women’s football.
Twenty years later, Megan Rapinoe led the US Women’s team to another World Cup victory, this time with fans screaming “equal pay.” In 2022, the women’s national team settled a sex discrimination lawsuit against the national federation for $24 million and promised equal pay and prize money.
Last month, Rapinoe spoke at a press conference about how the 2023 World Cup will be a game-changer for women’s sport.Equality is actually good for business“
“Every generation thinks they were the first to say this, so it’s fun to hear them,” she says. “I’m glad we’re on the same page to get things done.”
As always, capital is key. She and Kloss, who joined the Celebrity Owners Group of the National Women’s Soccer League’s Angel City Football Club in 2020, were encouraged by Y. Michelle Kang’s recent activities. $35 million purchase Representative of the Washington Spirit of the league.
“We need more people to continue to step up,” King said. “If you look at everything now, it’s billionaires. And if you look at the Middle East, it’s going to be different again.”
At a press conference, King supported the WTA’s efforts to seek funding from Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia has already embraced professional golf with the merger of LIV Golf and the PGA Tour. Although she acknowledged the country’s discriminatory policies over women and homosexuality, she told reporters that she “doesn’t really change people unless they get involved.” She added that this is her opinion. “I would still go and talk to them,” she said.
Engagement has always been King’s philosophy of life, equated with knowing one’s history. She is not ready to finish writing her own sentence.
King will turn 80 in November.
“She has a real feeling that she doesn’t have enough time,” says Cross. “She doesn’t have enough time.”