Sunday, October 16, 2016

October 16 - Billie Jean King

Billie Jean King

When it comes to LGBT visibility in sports, Billie Jean King has led the charge. Widely considered one of the greatest (if not the greatest) female athletes of all time, King won 39 Grand Slam titles (12 singles, 16 doubles, 11 mixed doubles) in her professional tennis career, making her one of the most decorated players in history. She is one of an elite group to have won a career Grand Slam (winning each of the four major events at least once), and she was also well-known for having beaten Bobby Riggs, a former men's Wimbledon champion and popular male chauvinist of the 1970s, to a match he challenged in 1973, dubbed the "Battle of the Sexes." King retired from professional tennis in 1990, more than thirty years after making her debut at Grand Slam. Since her retirement, King has advocated strongly for gender equality in sport, leading the campaign all the way back to the 1970s for equal pay for female athletes on the tour, at which time she then became the first president of the Women's Tennis Association. Additionally, King was the first female athlete to come out as a lesbian in 1981, which led to her losing several endorsements and contracts. Since then, though, she has become an icon of LGBT representation in athletics, including being appointed by President Obama to the 2014 US delegation of Olympic athletes at Sochi, and serving on the board of Elton John's AIDS Foundation and the National AIDS Fund; she was award the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009 for her service to the LGBT community.

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