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Billie Jean King (22)

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Billie Jean King (née Moffitt; born November 22, 1943) is a former professional tennis player from the United States. She won 12 Grand Slam singles titles, 16 Grand Slam women's doubles titles, and 11 Grand Slam mixed doubles titles. King has been an advocate against sexism in sports and society. She won "The Battle of the Sexes" in 1973, in which she defeated Bobby Riggs, a former Wimbledon men's singles champion, for $100,000, winner take all.

King is the founder of the Women's Tennis Association, the Women's Sports Foundation, and owner of World Team Tennis, which was founded by her former husband, Larry King, Dennis Murphy, Frank Barman, and Jordan Kaiser.

  Biography  

 personal life
Billie Jean Moffit was born in Long Beach, California, into a conservative Methodist family, the daughter of a fireman father and housewife mother. Her younger brother Randy Moffitt grew up to become a professional baseball player, pitching for 12 years in the major leagues for the San Francisco Giants, Houston Astros, and Toronto Blue Jays.

Billie Jean attended Long Beach Polytechnic High School. After graduating, she attended California State University, Los Angeles because her parents could not afford Stanford or the University of Southern California .

She married Lawrence King in Long Beach, California on September 17, 1965. In 1971, she had an abortion, which Mr. King revealed to the public in a 1972 Ms. Magazine article, without consulting Mrs. King in advance. King said in her 1982 autobiography that she decided to have an abortion because she believed her marriage was not solid enough to bring a child into her family. Billie Jean and Lawrence divorced in 1987.

By 1968, King realized that she was interested in women, and in 1971, the same year of the abortion and while still married to Lawrence King, she began an intimate relationship with her secretary, Marilyn Barnett. King was forced to acknowledge the relationship when it became public in a May 1981 "palimony" lawsuit filed by Barnett, making King the first prominent professional female athlete to come out as a lesbian. King said that she had wanted to retire from competitive tennis in 1981 but could not afford to because of the lawsuit. "Within 24 hours , I lost all my endorsements; I lost everything. I lost $2 million at least, because I had longtime contracts. I had to play just to pay for the lawyers. In three months I went through $500,000 today. I was in shock. I didn't make $2 million in my lifetime, so it's all relative to what you make." King said in 1998 that Martina Navratilova was not supportive when King was outed, resulting in their relationship having a "very bad five years." Speaking about the lawsuit in 2007, 26 years after it was filed, King said:

It was very hard on me because I was outed and I think you have to do it in your own time. Fifty per cent of gay people know who they are by the age of 13. I was in the other 50%. I would never have married Larry if I’d known. I would never have done that to him. I was totally in love with Larry when I was 21.

Concerning the personal cost of concealing her sexuality for so many years, King said:
I wanted to tell the truth but my parents were homophobic and I was in the closet. As well as that, I had people tell me that if I talked about what I was going through, it would be the end of the women's tour. I couldn't get a closet deep enough. I've got a homophobic family, a tour that will die if I come out, the world is homophobic and, yeah, I was homophobic. If you speak with gays, bisexuals, lesbians and transgenders, you will find a lot of homophobia because of the way we all grew up. One of my big goals was always to be honest with my parents and I couldn't be for a long time. I tried to bring up the subject but felt I couldn't. My mother would say, "We’re not talking about things like that", and I was pretty easily stopped because I was reluctant anyway. I ended up with an eating disorder that came from trying to numb myself from my feelings. I needed to surrender far sooner than I did. At the age of 51, I was finally able to talk about it properly with my parents and no longer did I have to measure my words with them. That was a turning point for me as it meant I didn't have regrets any more.

On August 12, 2009, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama for her work advocating for the rights of women and the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered community. "This is a chance for me – and for the United States of America – to say thank you to some of the finest citizens of this country and of all countries", President Obama said.

She is a friend of Elton John and was a friend of Charles M. Schulz.

In 1999, King was elected to serve on the Board of Directors of Philip Morris Incorporated, garnering some criticism from anti-tobacco groups. She no longer serves in that capacity.

King appeared as a judge on Law & Order, one of her favorite television shows, on April 27, 2007. King also appeared on Ugly Betty on May 21, 2009.

King currently resides in New York and Chicago with her partner, Ilana Kloss.

Inducted into the Southern California Tennis Association Hall of Fame on August 5, 2011.

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Whole or part of the information contained in this card come from the Wikipedia article "Billie Jean King", licensed under CC-BY-SA full list of contributors here.