Famed tennis star, LGBTQ activist and trail blazer Billy Jean King is set to speak at VCU’s Siegel Center this October. It doesn’t appear if tickets will be required yet, but we’ll let you know when we do.
If through her words and deeds one woman can truly make a difference for thousands of others in change-making ways, then that singular individual would be Billie Jean King. Named one of the “100 Most Important Americans of the 20th Century” by Life and a 2009 recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, King is a pioneer for equality, and the advancement of women and LGBTQ people.
King, who has won an astounding 39 Grand Slam titles during her career, blazed trails for women everywhere in 1970 when she became one of nine players to break away from the tennis establishment and accept a one dollar contract from tennis promoter Gladys Heldman to compete in the newly created Virginia Slims Series. The revolt led to the birth of women’s pro tennis and the formation of the Women’s Tennis Association.
In 1973, King produced one of the greatest moments in sports history when she defeated Bobby Riggs in the Battle of the Sexes. In 2008, she authored Pressure is a Privilege: Lessons I’ve Learned from Life and the Battle of the Sexes to commemorate the 35th anniversary of that historic match.
In 1974, she co-founded World Team Tennis, the revolutionary co-ed professional tennis league, and the Women’s Sports Foundation. In 2006, the National Tennis Center, home of the US Open, was renamed the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in honor of her accomplishments on and off the court.
King was outed in 1981 and lost all of her endorsements and sponsorships overnight. Over her career she has been a tireless advocate for LGBTQ people as well as for women in sports and society. King has created new inroads for women and LGBTQ people in and out of sports throughout her legendary career, and she continues to make her mark today as her enduring accomplishments reverberate far beyond the tennis courts.