Thursday, August 24, 2006

Billie Jean King to be honored by the USTA

On Monday, opening day of the 2006 U.S. Open, the USTA National Tennis Center--world's largest public tennis facility--will be renamed the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. No one deserves this honor more than King, who founded both the WTA and World Team Tennis, (making her one of the first women to coach men) and without whose courage female tennis players could not have competed as professionals.

King's accomplishments as both an athlete and a feminist are numerous and impressive. I remember her as an amazing tennis player, but I remember being even more impressed that she and her small band of outlaws were willing to give up everything to see to it that women were paid professional fees for their work on the tennis court. It wasn't easy. Most of the women on the tour were too afraid to break away and upset the status quo. None of the men supported King, and those who she thought were her friends turned their backs on her.

King is the second person to have a major American tennis facility named for her. Arthur Ashe Stadium at Flushing Meadows, New York, home of the U.S. Open, honors another American tennis great. When King was told that her name would be alongside Ashe's, she talked about the year they both won Wimbledon, and about how Ashe, too, fought for justice.

What King was too polite to say is that when she and her cohorts formed the WTA, Ashe was not at all interested in fighting for justice. In fact, he was quite angry that some uppity women were trying to move into the men's territory. "Men are playing tennis for a living now," Ashe said. "They don't want to give up money just for girls to play. Why should we have to split our money with them?" According to King, Ashe was the worst of them (until he met his wife), proving once again that the oppressed do not necessarily feel empathy for the oppressed.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg says that King, who even inspired a hit song, is a "legend among legends." She is.


I absolutley adore her after seeing that documentary on her on HBO. I feel like an idiot for not knowing just how great she is. But I sure do now.

Legend, indeed.

By Blogger Helen Wheels, at 3:08 PM  

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