NEW YORK — Billie Jean King’s victory in the “Battle of the Sexes” was a milestone moment as women pushed for equality on the playing field and beyond.
On the 50th anniversary of that match against Bobby Riggs — still the most-watched in tennis history — King moved toward becoming the first female individual athlete to be awarded the Congressional Gold Medal.
Three U.S. senators introduced a bill Wednesday that would award the honor to King, the tennis Hall of Famer and activist who was a driving force behind the creation of the women’s pro tour, equal prize money for men and women, and the passage of Title IX.
“She’s both a role model for women and girls everywhere, but she’s also a battle-tested warrior for women’s rights and equality,” said Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, one of the bill’s leaders in the Senate along with Sens. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona.
King already has celebrated the 50th anniversaries this year of the WTA Tour and the U.S. Open becoming the first tournament to award equal prize money to its men’s and women’s champions. On Sept. 20, 1973, she faced Riggs, the former No. 1-ranked men’s player who boasted he could beat any women’s player.
King’s 6-4, 6-3, 6-3 victory at the Astrodome in Houston was seen by an estimated 90 million people.
“This match was about much more than tennis. It was about social change,” King wrote Tuesday on the social media platform formerly known as Twitter.