Sunday, June 16, 2024

Legislation offered for tribute to Billie Jean King

Billie Jean King speaks after receiving “The Know Your Value Award” on stage at the Forbes 30/50 Summit International Women’s Day Awards Gala 2023 on March 08, 2023 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

Billie Jean King speaks after receiving “The Know Your Value Award” on stage at the Forbes 30/50 Summit International Women’s Day Awards Gala 2023 on March 08, 2023 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
| Photo Credit: Getty Images

Sports trailblazer Billie Jean King would become the first woman athlete to receive the Congressional Gold Medal under legislation introduced by U.S. lawmakers, the U.S. Tennis Association (USTA) said Wednesday.

The bill, sponsored by Pennsylvania Republican Brian Fitzpatrick and New Jersey Democrat Mikie Sherrill would honor “King, an American icon, in recognition of a remarkable life devoted to championing equal rights for all, in sports and in society.”

Eleven male athletes and the 1980 U.S. Olympic team, which did not compete in that year’s Moscow Summer Games, have received the award.

“I am honored to be considered for the Congressional Gold Medal,” King said.

The move comes as tennis celebrates the 50th anniversary of equal prize money for men and women at the U.S. Open.

“Billie Jean King is an incredible athlete and unmatched trailblazer for women and girls in sports,” said Fitzpatrick.

“This is a woman who has truly impacted the lives of so many,” said Sherrill. “We’re still not where we need to be, or want to be, but we would not be anywhere near where we are today without Billie Jean King.”

USTA president Brian Hainline hailed King’s fight for women’s equality in payouts half a century ago after she won the 1972 U.S. Open crown. The U.S. Open began paying equal money in 1973 and King, now 79, later that year beat Bobby Riggs in the “Battle of the Sexes” tennis match.

“Perhaps most impressive about her legacy is that her greatness on and off the court has not only inspired countless girls and women to also aim for their own greatness, but has pushed for them to be properly compensated for these efforts,” Hainline said.

“The time is perfect for Billie Jean King to become the first female athlete to be given the Congressional Gold Medal.”

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