The Pride Month happens every year in June and we have taken this opportunity to highlight athletes that have changed the world of sport and our society. In this article we focus on the American tennis legend Billie Jean King who became one of the most respected women of the 20th century.
When she was only 11 years of age, she told her mother "I'm going to be No.1 in the world". She eventually achieved her goal between 1966 and 1972 while winning 39 Grand Slams in the space of 20 years. 20 of which were Wimbledon championships. For those who are not aware, Wimbledon is the first open (dated back to 1968) and considered the mecca of tennis.
She quickly noticed that there was a huge gender pay gap in tennis and decided to make a stand. Right before the start of Wimbledon 1973 she announced the formation of the Women's Tennis Association (WTA). For those who are not aware tennis is governed by the International Tennis Federation (ITF) which works with the men's (ATP) and women's associations (WTA) who run the tournaments/events around the world. WTA to date represents women's professional tennis, acting as a platform for equality and representation. Later that year she defeated a former men's tennis champion, Bobby Riggs, with the match being called the "Battle of the Sexes" (there are movies/documentaries available to watch). Proving that skill is not dependent upon gender.
A list of her achievements:
Promoted equal prize money and equal treatment of women
Established the Virginia Slims Tour
Founded the Women's Tennis Association and Women's Sports Foundation
Co-founded World TeamTennis
First female athlete to earn more than $100.000 in a single season
First woman to coach a team in pro sports
First woman commissioner in pro sports history
Awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom
Her achievements have lead to today's female athletes having equal opportunity in the world of sports. As then president of the United States, Barack Obama stated "What she did to broaden the reach of the game, to change how women athletes and women everywhere view themselves, and to give everyone regardless of gender and sexual orientation, a chance to compete on the court and in life" while awarding her the nation's highest civilian honour.
Billie Jean King once mentioned "We should never ever underestimate the human spirit" and for what you have achieved, we thank you.