USTA section members honored as “champions of equality” at 2023 US Open
During the 2023 US Open’s inaugural “Champions of Equality” event, members of 16 USTA sections were honored for their contributions at the grassroots level put toward the ongoing effort of leveling the playing field for all.
The event took place shortly before the women’s singles semifinals, and was a celebration of the fight for equality and the pioneering women who have led the way, and acknowledged the effort of tennis’ foremost trailblazers at both the professional and grassroots levels. The “Be Open” event was presented by Cadillac, which also sponsored the broadcast of the iconic Battle of the Sexes match in September 1973.
The legendary Billie Jean King received the night’s Lifetime Achievement Award, the iconic Venus Williams received the first US Open Billie Jean King Champion of Equality Award. The section honorees were nominated and chosen earlier in the summer, and were able to meet King before a dynamic conversation between her and Williams, who have been at the forefront of the fight for equal pay in tennis, alongside Telva McGruder, the chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer at General Motors, and award-winning broadcast journalist Christiane Amanpour, who moderated.
"It's at the sectional level where we promote and develop tennis. But why?" USTA Chairman of the Board and President Brian Hainline said at the event. "To inspire healthy people and communities everywhere. If we're going to inspire healthy people and communities, we also have to inspire and fight for equality of access.
"We're just going to continue the journey forward. We're truly inspired and will continue to be inspired."
USTA Section Champions of Equality:
USTA Eastern - Lorraine Rohlsen-Alexander
USTA Florida - Dana Andrews
USTA Hawaii Pacific - Madeleine Dreith
USTA Intermountain - Glen Alex
USTA Mid-Atlantic - Brenda Gilmore
USTA Middle States - Nancy Wilkins
USTA Midwest - Joy Albi
USTA Missouri Valley - Kim Hughes Gill
USTA New England - Judy Dixon
USTA Northern - Dr. Nicole Lavoi
USTA Northern California - Andrea Barnes
USTA Pacific Northwest - Shalini Hanstand
USTA Southern - Beth Hopkins
USTA Southern California - Doris Obih
USTA Texas - Kathleen Wu
USTA Southwest - Leslie Banks
"I first have to thank the USTA and Stacey [Allaster, the USTA's Chief Executive, Pro Tennis] who've just supported me so much over these last few years, especially when I've had some injuries that I've really kind of been unlucky, but you supported me every step of the way. That really means a lot to me because it hasn't been easy," Williams said.
"I have to thank Billie, too, for giving me this opportunity to have this good, good job. I love my job. I love what I do. I'll always love it. I'll always be a tennis player even when I'm not. It's just fantastic what you did. I think when you were in the middle of it, I don't even think you realized how tough it was because you're just in the middle and you just do what you have to do. Thank you for having that courage to get everyone in the right direction.
"I can't imagine what that was like, but you did it. You did it well. You remained a champion throughout it, and a role model to this day."