All Scores

Billie Jean King’s lifelong commitment to equality for all

(Steven Ferdman/Getty Images)

It’s rare for social activists to reach legendary status during their own lifetime, but that’s exactly the case for Billie Jean King in her ongoing quest for women’s sports equality.

In a recent conversation with Just Women’s Sports, the tennis icon revealed just how early in life she became passionate about the inequalities she witnessed in the world.

“I knew at 12 years old tennis was my platform for change. I was sitting at the Los Angeles Tennis Club thinking about my sport and I noticed everyone who played wore white clothes, played with white balls, and everyone who played was white,” recalls the now 78-year-old Southern California native.

“I asked myself, ‘Where is everyone else?’ From that day forward, I committed my life to fighting for equality for all.”

The intersection of sport and social change is where King has resided ever since that day at the Los Angeles Tennis Club. Luckily, her athletic prowess on the tennis court led to a level of athletic dominance that gave her a national and even global platform for what she had to say.

At Wimbledon in 1966, the then 23-year-old won the first of her 12 career Grand Slam titles, the last coming at Wimbledon once again in 1975. Her tennis awards, accolades and Hall of Fame inductions are impossible to summarize succinctly, but it’s her off-court accomplishments that her 12-year-old self would be most proud of.

When the existing structures didn’t aptly respond to her calls for equal prize money among men and women, she started the Women’s Tennis Association in 1970 along with eight fellow players, now known as the “Original 9,” and became its first president. A few years later, she started the Women’s Sports Foundation. The organization, dedicated to enhancing girls’ access to all sports and defending the nascent Title IX legislation, broadened her influence well beyond tennis.

King won 12 Grand Slam titles during her career, giving her the necessary platform to effect change. (Central Press/Getty Images)

Looking back almost 60 years after her first Grand Slam title at how far the sports world has come, King has no intention of taking her foot off the gas pedal.

“It’s not enough, and there is much more to do. Women’s sports have come a long way, but we are still very much in our infancy, especially when you compare us to men’s professional sports,” she says. “The best example is the NBA has been around more than 75 years, and the WNBA has been operating for just over 25 years. You cannot compare the two as it just isn’t apples to apples. We arrived in the marketplace later and we need a chance to show what we can do.”

Though she still believes that tennis is “the leader in women’s sports today,” she knows progress across the sports spectrum is essential, serving as a mentor for women’s teams and athletes throughout the U.S. With a front-row seat to the ebbs and flows of that progress, King has a unique perspective to demarcate key advances over the decades.

“The success of women athletes at the [1996] Atlanta Games spoke loud and clear about the future of women’s sports in this country and beyond. But women’s professional sports are just now starting to gain traction,” she says. “The NWSL is a bright star right now. I was at the Angel City FC home opener, and it was a special moment in history. The salaries are up in the WNBA. More than 40 percent of all professional athletes are women, yet we still only receive 4 percent of the media coverage.

“When that needle starts to move forward, women’s sports will really grow. The bottom line is we need everyone to invest in and champion women’s sports.”

At 78 years old, King is ever-present at sporting events around the globe. (Robert Prange/Getty Images)

Always one to let her actions speak louder than words, King’s own investment firm, BJK Enterprises, has now invested in the Los Angeles Sparks of the WNBA, Angel City FC of the NWSL, the Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association and Just Women’s Sports. But pushing for successful women’s pro leagues and equal pay with male counterparts is not where her agenda ends.

She always has her eye on the next crucial battlefronts in the pursuit of sports equality for all.

“Looking ahead to the next 50 years of Title IX, we must increase compliance with the law and find a workable solution for name, image and likeness laws,” she says. “Most importantly, we need to give attention to those who have thus far been left behind: defining inclusive opportunities for transgender athletes, athletes with disabilities, and girls and women of color.”

A quick scroll through King’s social media posts reveals her relentless drive to both honor the progress we’ve made and call for action on the work yet to be done. In the past few decades, other female athletes have reached legendary status in their own right, but they have all — knowingly or not — stood on the shoulders of Billie Jean King.

Editor’s Note: This story is a part of the Just Women’s Sports inaugural Legends Collection. Check out our stories on the other legends, Sheryl Swoopes and Brandi Chastain.

Tessa Nichols is a contributing writer at Just Women’s Sports.

USWNT to face Costa Rica in final Olympic send-off

uswnt sophia smith and tierna davidson celebrate at shebeilves cup 2024
The USWNT will play their final pre-Olympic friendly against Costa Rica on July 16th. (Photo by Greg Bartram/ISI Photos/USSF/Getty Images for USSF)

U.S. Soccer announced Tuesday that the USWNT will play their last home game on July 16th in the lead-up to the 2024 Summer Olympic Games in Paris.

The 2024 Send-Off Match against Costa Rica will take place at Washington, DC’s Audi Field — home to both the Washington Spirit and DC United — at 7:30 p.m. ET on Tuesday, July 16th. The friendly rounds out a four-game Olympic run-up campaign under incoming head coach Emma Hayes’ side, with the last two set to feature the finalized 2024 U.S. Olympic Women’s Soccer Team roster.

Hayes will appear on the USWNT sideline for the first time this June, helming the team as they embark on a two-game series against Korea Republic hosted by Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Colorado on June 1st followed by Allianz Stadium in St. Paul, Minnesota on June 4th. 

The team is then scheduled to meet a talented Mexico squad on July 13th at Gotham FC’s Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey, where the Olympic-bound lineup will attempt to rewrite February’s shocking 2-0 loss to El Tri Femenil in the group stages of this year’s Concacaf W Gold Cup. And while clear roster favorites have emerged from both of this year’s Gold Cup and SheBelives Cup rosters, a spate of recent and recurring injuries means making it to the Olympics is still largely anyone’s game.

Broadcast and streaming channels for the USWNT's final July 16th friendly at Audi Field include TNT, truTV, Universo, Max, and Peacock.

Caitlin Clark’s WNBA start to serve as 2024 Olympic tryout

Clark of the Indiana Fever poses for a photo with Lin Dunn and Christie Sides during her introductory press conference on April 17, 2024
The talented Fever rookie is still in the running for a ticket to this summer's Paris Olympics. (Photo by Ron Hoskins/NBAE via Getty Images)

The USA Basketball Women's National Team is still considering Caitlin Clark for a spot on the Paris Olympics squad, says selection committee chair Jennifer Rizzotti. 

On Monday, Rizzotti told the AP that the committee will be evaluating the college phenom’s Olympic prospects by keeping a close eye on her first few weeks of WNBA play with Indiana.

The move is somewhat unconventional. While Clark was invited to participate in the 14-player national team training camp held earlier this month — the last camp before Team USA’s roster drops — she was unable to attend due to it coinciding with Iowa’s trip to the NCAA Women’s Final Four.

Judging by the immense talent spread throughout the league in what might be their most hyped season to date, competition for a piece of the Olympic pie could be fiercer than ever before.

"You always want to introduce new players into the pool whether it's for now or the future," said Rizzotti. "We stick to our principles of talent, obviously, positional fit, loyalty and experience. It's got to be a combination of an entire body of work. It's still not going to be fair to some people."

Of course, Clark isn’t the first rookie the committee has made exceptions for. Coming off an exceptional college season that saw her averaging 19.4 points, 8.7 rebounds, and 4 assists per game for UConn, Breanna Stewart was tapped to represent the U.S. at the 2016 Olympics in Brazil less than two weeks after being drafted No. 1 overall by the Seattle Storm. Eight years prior, fellow No. 1 pick Candace Parker punched her ticket to the 2008 Games in Beijing just two weeks after making her first appearance for the L.A. Sparks.

In the lead-up to Paris’ Opening Ceremony on July 26th, USA Basketball Women’s National Team is scheduled to play a pair of exhibition games. They'll first go up against the WNBA's finest at the July 20th WNBA All-Star Game in Phoenix before facing Germany in London on July 23rd.

While an official roster announcement date hasn’t yet been issued, players won’t find out if they’ve made this year’s Olympic cut until at least June 1st.

WNBA teams make history with 2024 season ticket sell-outs

Arike Ogunbowale on the wnba court for the dallas wings
The Dallas Wings are now the third team to sell out their entire season ticket allotment in WNBA history. (Michael Gonzales/NBAE via Getty Images)

For the first time in history, three different WNBA teams have completely sold out of season ticket plans well before the league's May 14th kick-off.

Call it the Caitlin Clark effect, attribute it to this year’s tenacious rookie class, or look to the skyrocketing visibility of veteran players across the board. But no matter the cause, facts are facts: Tickets to the 2024 WNBA season are selling like never before. 

On Monday, the Dallas Wings became the third team to sell out of season ticket memberships in the league’s 27-year history. The announcement from Arlington came shortly after the Atlanta Dream issued their own season ticket sell-out statement, also on Monday, and almost seven weeks after the back-to-back WNBA Champion Las Vegas Aces made headlines by becoming the first-ever WNBA team to sell out their season ticket allotment.   

According to the Wings, season ticket memberships will fill nearly 40% of the 6,251 seats inside their home arena, College Park Center. The club also said that their overall ticket revenue has ballooned to the tune of 220% this year, spanning not just season tickets but also a 1,200% increase in single ticket sales. There’s currently a waitlist to become a Dallas season ticket holder, a status that comes with extra incentives like playoff presale access and discounts on additional single-game tickets. 

In Atlanta, season tickets aren't the only thing flying off the shelves. The Dream also announced that they broke their own record for single-game ticket sales during a recent limited presale campaign. Sunday was reportedly their most lucrative day, with five different games totally selling out Gateway Center Arena. Individual tickets for all upcoming matchups will hit the market this Thursday at 8 a.m., while a waitlist for season ticket memberships will open up next Tuesday at 10 a.m.

"Excitement around women's sports, particularly basketball, is at an all-time high and nowhere is that felt more than here in Atlanta," Dream president and COO Morgan Shaw Parker said in the team’s statement. "We’ve continued a record-setting growth trajectory over the past three years under new ownership — both on and off the court — and 2024 is shaping up to be our best season yet."

As of Tuesday, season ticket sales revenue for Caitlin Clark’s hotly anticipated Indiana Fever debut haven’t yet been announced by the club. But if these numbers are any indication — not to mention the explosive demand for Fever away games felt by teams around the country — it won’t be long before we see some scale-tipping figures coming out of Indianapolis.

Nelly Korda ties LPGA record with fifth-straight tournament win

Nelly Korda of the United States celebrates with the trophy after winning The Chevron Championship
Nelly Korda poses with her trophy after acing her fifth-straight tour title at The Chevron Championship on Sunday. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

25-year-old American pro golfer Nelly Korda secured her spot in LPGA history on Sunday, notching her fifth-straight title at this weekend's Chevron Championship in The Woodlands, Texas.

Ranked No. 1 in the world by Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings, Korda joins Nancy Lopez (1978) and Annika Sörenstam (2005) as just the third LPGA player to rack up five consecutive tour wins. She is also the third No. 1-ranked player to capture The Chevron Championship victory since the rankings debuted in 2006, accompanied by Lorena Ochoa and Lydia Ko.

The Florida native shot three-under 69 in Sunday's final, besting Sweden's Maja Stark despite Stark's valiant come-from-behind attempt in the 18th. Korda finished with a four-day total of 13-under 275, celebrating her two-stroke win by cannonballing into Poppie's Pond, much to the crowd's delight. She left The Club at Carlton Woods with $1.2 million from an overall purse of $7.9 million.

It wasn't long ago that the two-time major champion's current winning streak seemed unimaginable. After maintaining her No. 1 position for 29 weeks, Korda underwent surgery to remove a blood clot from her left arm in 2022. She returned to the course not long after, but failed to win a single tournament in 2023 before seeing a surge in form during the first four months of 2024. As of today, she hasn't lost a tournament since January.

Korda will attempt a record sixth-straight win at next week's JM Eagle LA Championship at Wilshire Country Club in Los Angeles, where she'll vie for a cut of the $3.75 million purse.

Start your morning off right with Just Women’s Sports’ free, 5x-a-week newsletter.