Queen of the Court
Recognized by many, Billie Jean King dominated women’s tennis as America’s most influential tennis player for more than two decades. King, born as Billie Jean Moffit, was born on November 22, 1943. She began playing tennis at the modest age of eleven. By the time she reached her twenties, Billie Jean King was the first female athlete to receive over $100,000 in cash prize (BJK Enterprises). On September 20, 1973, she proved that women were equally competitive as men, both athletically and in the media, by defeating Bobby Riggs during the Battle of the Sexes.
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King’s success during the time of her professional tennis player career resulted in activism and influence which has forever transformed the opportunities for females to achieve in sports and beyond. A year prior, in 1972, she won the U.S. Open but received $15,000 less than her male counterpart, Ilie Nastase. She pushed for an equal cash prize to both genders and strongly encouraged the U.S. Open to do so. A year later, the U.S. Open was the first prominent competition to give an equal cash prize to both genders (BJK Enterprises). Although from time to time, women still get paid less than men, King made it so women could earn an equal amount of prize money in renowned tennis tournaments. This gave women a shot at ‘equal pay for equal play’ against male rivals (Barajas). Women like Serena and Venus Williams have also lobbied alongside King for an equal cash prize, and that’s what they got. In the early 2000s, both Wimbledon and the French Open then came to terms with giving equivalent amounts of cash prize to both men and women alike.
In 1974, King started her establishment called The Women’s Sports Foundation. The WSF is committed to elevating the lives of female individuals through physical activity and sports and provides financial support to future athletes (King). The WSF gives privileges to many aspiring female athletes worldwide and has encouraged more females into the field of sports and has even given rise to other known female athletes such as former professional boxer, Laila Ali; Muhammad Ali’s daughter, paralympic track and field athlete Scout Basset, and many more. King also has a desire for equal rights, opportunities, and freedom for all people. She influenced people to gain support for people in the LGBT community and people living with AIDS by giving knowledge of the hardships they face on a day-to-day basis. Moreover, she raised large sums of money for AIDS prevention, advocated to battle homophobia in schools, and raised awareness of the LGBT community to lower teenage suicide rates. In addition to this, she contributed to the Elton John AIDS Foundation and the National AIDS Fund. King created tennis events nationwide specifically for the cause of raising money to local AIDS charities and the Elton John Foundation (LGBT Hall of Fame). She has been an influence on people in the LGBT community to better accept themselves and know that many people accept them as they are. In 1981, she became the first openly gay prominent female athlete, and in 2009 she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama for her work supporting the rights of women and the LGBT community (BJK Enterprises). Billie Jean King transformed the fields of sports and activism by influencing hundreds of thousands of people to feel their power and worth as individuals.
Overall, King’s influence not only women in sports but women across America will be remembered for many generations to come. Her influence in the fields of sports and activism has changed American society. Women and girls across the country have now been given equal opportunities through King’s Women’s Sports Foundation. One of the most world-renowned tournaments, the U.S. Open, now offers an equal cash prize to men and women; $3.85 million for winning singles (Barajas). She has endeavored towards raising money and awareness for the AIDS funds and foundations and LGBT equality as well. To conclude, King’s biggest impact in American society changed the judgment of women's rights in sports and changed the views of many on how women are perceived to this day.
- AllAuthor, editor. All Author. LMN Technology, 2020, allauthor.com/quotes/19784/. Accessed 10 Feb. 2020.
- Barajas, Joshua. "Equal pay for equal play. What the sport of tennis got right." PBS News Hour, Barajas, 12 Apr. 2016, www.pbs.org/newshour/economy/equal-pay-for-equal-play-what-the-sport-of-tennis-got-right. Accessed 22 Jan. 2020.
- Billie Jean King Enterprises. "Billie Jean King Biography." Billie Jean King, Billie Jean King Enterprises, 2017, www.billiejeanking.com/biography/. Accessed 6 Feb. 2020.
- Chicago LBGT Hall of Fame. "Billie Jean King, Individual | Inducted 1999."
- The Chicago LBGT Hall of Fame, 2019, chicagolgbthalloffame.org/king-billie-jean/. Accessed 11 Feb. 2020.
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- www.womenssportsfoundation.org/. Accessed 11 Feb. 2020.
- Mitchell, Pat. "How the 'Battle of the Sexes' influenced a generation of men." TED Blog, TED Conferences, 23 Sept. 2017, blog.ted.com/how-the-battle-of-the-sexes-influenced-a-generation-of-men-billie-jean-kings-tedwomen-update/. Accessed 12 Feb. 2020.
- Ott, Tim. "'Battle of the Sexes': The True Story of How Billie Jean King Struck
- a Blow for Women's Sports." Biography, 19 Sept. 2017, www.biography.com/
- news/battle-of-the-sexes-true-story-facts. Accessed 11 Feb. 2020.
- Sweeney, Sarah. "Appreciating Billie Jean King's contribution to second-wave feminism." The Harvard Gazette, 20 Nov. 2008, news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2008/11/appreciating-billie-jean-kings-contribution-to-second-wave-feminism/. Accessed 10 Feb. 2020.
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