Ashley Marshall  |  February 14, 2018

Tennis legend Billie Jean King is revered as a champion on the court and a pioneer in the community. Now, one of the most iconic players in the history of the sport has been nominated for one of America’s highest honors.

Politicians in New York and California this week introduced the Billie Jean King Congressional Gold Medal Act, asking that the former world No. 1 be officially recognized for her contributions to sport, society and culture.

The Congressional Gold Medal is an award bestowed by the United States Congress to recognize an individual’s immense contributions to American culture.

The legislation was introduced by Congressmen Joe Crowley of New York and Alan Lowenthal of California.


“Time and time again, Billie Jean King has broken barriers,” said House Democratic Caucus Chairman Crowley. ADVERTISEMENT “Among the numerous accolades she has earned over the course of her career, the Congressional Gold Medal would formally recognize King’s leadership in the fight for equality and her achievements in making professional sports more accessible to all Americans.”


Along with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Congressional Gold Medal ranks as the highest civilian award in the country. In 2009, King was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama.

Added Congressman Lowenthal: “Billie Jean redefined the very role of women in both sports and American culture. The word icon is simply too small to capture the enormous impact she has had on not just tennis, not just on the United States, but on the world. She is a pioneer in athletics, a trailblazer in the fight for equality, a role model for women and the LGBT community and an inspiration to every American. She has not only earned this honor – she deserves it for the ground she has broken and the paths that she has set.”

King won 12 Grand Slam women’s singles titles in addition to 16 doubles titles and 11 mixed doubles titles. But King, who was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1987, is also widely known for her work off the court.


She fought for equal prize money and gender equality, has been a passionate advocate and supporter of LGBTQ rights, as well as a longtime proponent of youth sports and Title IX. In 2017, her 1973 "Battle of the Sexes" match against Bobby Riggs was made into a Hollywood movie.


“I am so proud to be an American, and it would be an amazing honor to receive the Congressional Gold Medal,” said King. “I fully appreciate the importance and the significance of this honor, and to be considered is a privilege. I am thankful to Chairman Crowley and Rep. Lowenthal for their support and for the work they continue to do for the people of New York and California.”

USTA President and Chairman of the Board Katrina Adams described King as a “tireless crusader for women’s rights, LGBTQ rights and social justice,” while Deborah Antoine, the CEO of the Women’s Sports Foundation – an organization founded by King in 1974 – said she was a “national treasure” who “dedicated her career and life to social justice and is a visionary for equality for all.”

The legislation is endorsed by the American Association of University Women, Association of Title IX Administrators, Human Rights Campaign, Girls Inc., National Center for Lesbian Rights, National Council of Youth Sports, National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund, Women’s Tennis Association, Women’s Sports Foundation and the USTA.


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