"It gave women self-confidence to ask for what they want" - Billie Jean King revisits her famous 'Battle of The Sexes' win on its 50th anniversary

Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs at the "Battle of the Sexes" match in 1973.
Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs at the "Battle of the Sexes" match in 1973.

The US Open celebrated 50 years of equal pay earlier this month, honoring Billie Jean King, a pioneer in the fight for women's right to earn the same amount as their male counterparts.

The tennis icon was among the 'Original 9' who decided to part ways from tennis' governing bodies in 1970 to form a circuit that catered to women players alone.

Three years on, King delivered another big win for the women's movement when she ousted the then-retired Bobby Riggs in the iconic 'Battle of the Sexes' match that held a packed Houston Astrodome captive for reasons bigger than the sport.

Recalling her win over Riggs in an interview with the People magazine, King said she felt it gave women the self-confidence needed to ask for the things that they wanted like a raise at work.

"It gave women self-confidence to ask for what they want and need because we're taught not to," Billie Jean King said. "They ask for raises."

The American said she has had several women tell her about the watershed moment and how it affected their lives and those of the women that came before them.

"I've had so many women tell me how it changed their lives or their grandmother's life or whoever; just the different generations it's covered," she continued. "I still do interviews for 10-year-olds that bring it up in their reports for school."

"Sometimes, it feels so long ago, and other times, it feels like today" - Billie Jean King on 'Battle of the Sexes' win

Billie Jean King at the 2023 US Open.
Billie Jean King at the 2023 US Open.

Looking back at the 'Battle of the Sexes' match, Billie Jean King said there are days when the moment felt like it took place ages ago, while on other days, it felt like yesterday.

"Sometimes it feels so long ago, and other times it feels like today." Billie Jean King said. "It was really, really difficult to be heard. In 1973, Title IX had just been passed the year before where the educational amendment, we finally weren't going to have classroom quotas for women anymore."

The American said the match drew a lot of attention due to Bobby Riggs' involvement, adding that while things have improved since a man's involvement generates attention to sport even today.

"With women's sports particularly, they paid a lot of attention to that match because there was a guy involved. If you got a guy involved, you got a lot more attention," she continued. "I still think that holds true today to a certain degree, but not to the extent it was back then."

King had ousted Riggs in a straight-set match 6-2, 7-5 and pocketed a winner-takes-all cash prize of $100,000 with her 'Battle of the Sexes' win.

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Edited by Ritwik Kumar
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