Partner Ilana Kloss
California State University, Los Angeles, 5151 State University Dr, Los Angeles, CA 90032, Stati Uniti
Billie Jean King (née Moffitt; born November 22, 1943) is an American former World No. 1 professional tennis player. King won 39 Grand Slam titles: 12 in singles, 16 in women's doubles, and 11 in mixed doubles. King won the singles title at the inaugural WTA Tour Championships. King often represented the United States in the Federation Cup and the Wightman Cup. She was a member of the victorious United States team in seven Federation Cups and nine Wightman Cups. For three years, King was the United States' captain in the Federation Cup.
King is an advocate for gender equality and has long been a pioneer for equality and social justice. In 1973, at age 29, she won the "Battle of the Sexes" tennis match against the 55-year-old Bobby Riggs. King was also the founder of the Women's Tennis Association and the Women's Sports Foundation. She was also instrumental in persuading cigarette brand Virginia Slims to sponsor women's tennis in the 1970s and went on to serve on the board of their parent company Philip Morris in the 2000s.
Regarded by many in the sport as one of the greatest tennis players of all time, King was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1987. The Fed Cup Award of Excellence was bestowed on King in 2010. In 1972, King was the joint winner, with John Wooden, of the Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year award and was one of the Time Persons of the Year in 1975. King has also received the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Sunday Times Sportswoman of the Year lifetime achievement award. King was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame in 1990, and in 2006, the USTA National Tennis Center in New York City was renamed the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.
Billie Jean and Larry King were engaged in fall of 1964 and married in Long Beach, California, on September 17, 1965. Billie Jean credited Larry with introducing her to feminism and for pushing her to pursue tennis as a career. Billie Jean later said she "was totally in love with Larry" when they married.
By 1968, King realized that she was attracted to women, and in 1971, began an intimate relationship with her secretary, Marilyn Barnett (born Marilyn Kathryn McRae on January 28, 1948). Billie Jean acknowledged the relationship when it became public in a May 1981 "palimony" lawsuit filed by Barnett, making Billie Jean the first prominent professional female to come out as bisexual. Although Billie Jean identifies as a lesbian, because she is still attracted to and physically prefers women to men, she believes she should be labeled as bisexual, and if anything were to happen to her current relationship, she would not rule out a future relationship with a man. Feeling she could not admit to the extent of the relationship, Billie Jean publicly called it a fling and a mistake. She remained married to Larry. The lawsuit caused Billie Jean to lose an estimated $2 million in endorsements and forced her to prolong her tennis career to pay attorneys.
Also in 1971, Billie had an abortion that was made public in a Ms. magazine article. Larry had revealed Billie Jean's abortion without consulting her.
Concerning the personal cost of concealing her sexuality for so many years, Billie Jean 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. 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.
Billie Jean and Larry remained married through the palimony suit fallout. The marriage ended in 1987 after Billie Jean fell in love with her doubles partner, Ilana Kloss. Billie Jean and Larry remained on good terms, with Billie Jean serving as godmother to Larry's son from his subsequent marriage. Billie Jean King has residences in New York City and Chicago with Kloss, her life partner.