American Masters: Billie Jean King

(Rochester, NY) – To commemorate the 40th anniversaries of the Billie Jean King v. Bobby Riggs "The Battle of the Sexes" match in 1973, and the founding of the Women's Tennis Association (WTA) by King on June 20 of that year, American Masters is profiling its first sports figure--and a massively influential one at that. American Masters: Billie Jean King, airing Tuesday, September 10, 2013 at 8 p.m. on WXXI-TV, traces the incredible life of the single most important female athlete of the 20th century as her 70th birthday nears.

American Masters looks back to the 12-year-old Long Beach, California, girl who played tennis on public courts, observed disparity and, as she soared athletically, never stopped trying to remedy inequality. During her professional tennis career, King won 39 Grand Slam titles, helped form the Virginia Slims Series (pre-cursor to WTA Tour), founded the Women's Sports Foundation and Women's Sports magazine, and co-founded World TeamTennis (WTT). Her competitiveness on the circuit was matched by her efforts on behalf of women and the LGBT community, and her commitment to prove there is strength in diversity.

"Billie Jean King embodies the art of sports, of humanism, and of activism. For more than 50 years, her excellence and example have sparked the way for changes that enrich us all," said Susan Lacy, creator and executive producer of American Masters. "Billie Jean's star on our cultural landscape shines brighter and brighter, with no end in sight."

"I am thrilled American Masters is choosing to showcase my journey as we celebrate so many historic anniversaries in my ongoing commitment to social justice and equality," said King. "It is an honor to be the first athlete profiled in the 27-year history of American Masters and I look forward to bringing our message of equality to audiences of all ages and all backgrounds."

In this new documentary, King presents her own story with perspective from fellow tennis stars that played alongside her or were influenced by her, among them Margaret Court, Chris Evert, Ilana Kloss (King's partner), Maria Sharapova, Serena and Venus Williams, Caroline Wozniacki, and members of the Virginia Slims Circuit "Original 9," including Peaches Bartkowicz, Rosie Casals, Julie Heldman, Nancy Richey, and Valerie Ziegenfuss. The film also features new interviews with a diverse cast of characters from King's unparalleled life: former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, friend and fellow activist Sir Elton John, feminist icon Gloria Steinem, Bobby Riggs' son Larry and "Battle of the Sexes" trainer Lornie Kuhle, King's brother Randy Moffitt and ex-husband Larry King, and Valerie Jarrett, Senior Adviser to President Obama, who chose King as the first female athlete to be awarded with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. King is also a member of the President's Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition. Through these interviews and archival footage, the film illustrates the life of a woman whose journey became not just a battle for personal glory but a sociopolitical battle for equality for all.

Pictured: Billie Jean King
Credit: Courtesy of Kathy Willens

 


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