Billie Jean King reflects on 50 years of equal pay at the US Open: “Sports give women a chance to define themselves”

Billie Jean King has been speaking about her actions that led to the US Open offering men and women equal prize money

Billie Jean King Billie Jean King at Wimbledon in 2023

Ahead of this year’s US Open, Billie Jean King has been speaking about her stance that pushed the tournament into giving equal prize money to men and women 50 years ago.

After she received $10,000 for winning the title in 1972, compared to the $25,000 given to the men’s champion Ilie Nastase, King told reporters she would not be back the next year unless there was parity.

Her public lobbying along with a commercial investment from a sponsor meant the prize money for the next edition of the tournament was indeed equal.

“[Then], people probably went, ‘Huh? What? The women are going to make as much as the guys?’ This is a huge event to do that. It starts to change the hearts and minds of people,” she said in an interview on the US Open’s official website, in which she also discussed the half-century anniversary of the Original Nine and the establishment of the WTA.

King: Sport is a microcosm of society

“People think there’s money in women now,” she added. “That’s why they’re buying soccer teams. That’s why they’re buying basketball teams. That’s why they really are investing now. There’s no question, the values have gone way up. People think it’s a good investment. That never used to happen, at least in women’s sports.

“We’re going to keep pushing [for equality], because you want it for everyone. If they guys were making what we were making, I would’ve been pushing for them. But that’s not the way it is. Sport is a microcosm of society … so we have an amazing opportunity to lead and let people think about things, and maybe they’ll change.

“Sports give women, particularly, a chance to truly define themselves in a big way. With sports as a platform, we can help make the world a better place.”

All four Grand Slams offer their men’s and women’s champions equal prize money, with Wimbledon the last to do so as from 2007.

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