With 39 Grand Slam titles, Billie Jean King held the title of #1 player in the world for 6 years. King came from an athletic family, and knew shortly after picking up her first tennis racket that she’d found the sport for her. Her success extends far beyond the tennis court – King is a fierce advocate for women’s sports. Early in her career, she faced gender discrimination when she was banned from a 1955 group picture of tennis athletes. She was wearing shorts instead of a tennis dress.
As a college student in 1961, King, along with Karen Hantze Susman, gained international recognition by becoming the youngest duo to win Wimbledon’s Women’s Doubles. When King won the US Open in 1972, she received $15,000 less in prize money than her male counterpart and used her position to lobby for equal pay. The next year, equal pay was offered.
Billie Jean King played in one of the most watched tennis matches of all time: the Battle of the Sexes. Self-proclaimed chauvinist Bobby Riggs challenged King to a match. She walked off the court as a champion in both tennis and women’s sports advocacy, as her win garnered greater respect for women in tennis.
King lost all of her endorsement deals in 1981 when she was publicly ousted as a lesbian, but she continues to advocate for women’s sports well past the end of her career.
She helped found many groups to help women in sports such as the Women’s Tennis Association and the Women’s Sports Foundation. She is a minority owner in women’s basketball and soccer teams and recently helped found the Professional Women’s Hockey League. Known for much more than her tennis success, Billie Jean King has been one of the most influential figures in women’s sports and continues her advocacy to this day.
By: Carlyn Johnson
Biography. (n.d). Billie Jean King. Retrieved January 22, 2024, from https://www.billiejeanking.com/biography/