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How tennis legend Billie Jean King paved the way for equal pay for women in sport

Billie Jean King is one of the most famous names in women’s sport. 45 years ago, history was made as the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) was founded, uniting women in tennis across the USA. Its founder, Billie Jean King, had bigger problems to tackle as she challenged and then beat tennis former no.1 Bobby Riggs to claim a $100,000 prize. King challenged Riggs to the match to demonstrate that women can perform just as well as men, sometimes better and therefore should receive equal pay.

Since 1973, we have seen year on year progress, showing equality for men and women within sport thanks to King who long ago started this incredible change. The US Open which starts in August next month is one of those events which pays women and men equally for how they place in the Grand Slam tournaments. You can predict who will win the singles $3.8 million prize money here: https://www.paddypower.com/tennis/us-open-2019.

When Billie Jean King challenged Bobby Riggs to a game of tennis, it was about more than personal achievement and understandably, therefore, gained a lot of media coverage. Around 90 million people all over the world watched the event which had been called the ‘Battle of the Sexes’. Riggs was a great choice as an opponent, as not only did he have a good record and status within tennis, he was also a huge chauvinist.

Riggs would openly talk about how women shouldn’t play sport and that they should be “in the kitchen or the bedroom”. Riggs stood for everything King was trying to dismantle, making him the perfect opponent. Riggs would talk himself up, predicting he would walk all over his opponent, only to lose, paving the way for King, and women to create their platform in the sport.

Since that incredible tennis match in 1973, there have been many people, men and women alike, calling out for equal pay. In fact, it is still a topic discussed today with the recent demand for the USA Women’s Soccer Team to have equal pay. After winning the FIFA World Cup for the fourth time in 2019, the USA Women’s Soccer Team are yet to be paid the same as their male counterparts, who achieved their best finish in 1930 over 70 years ago in 3rd place and since then, the closest they came to any success was losing to Germany in the 2002 Quarter-Finals.

Although there are still quite a few sports that do not pay men and women the same, including some Golf tournaments, Basketball, Cricket and some Road Cycling tours, there are many that do. A study conducted by the BBC has revealed that now 83% of sports pay men and women the same for the events they take part in. The pressure that is on the rest of the sporting industry is massive, not only are the players speaking out about it, but the public is too. During the Women’s World Cup ceremony in France this year as the USA team lifted the cup, the chant ‘equal pay’ engulfed the noise in the stadium, giving it worldwide media coverage.

Billie Jean King was not only incredibly brave in 1973 by setting up the WTA, but she also faced huge adversity playing against Bobby Riggs, he was no easy feat. The future of women in tennis rested on her shoulders and she knew it; she had to win if she was to make a living doing what she loved. In Tennis, every single tournament now pays male and females the same, with Wimbledon being the last to conform in 2017. A huge success for her, and her legacy continues as the 2019 US Open will be played at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in August.

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