Amol Rajan Interviews “Billie Jean King” 22 June 2022: Wednesday on BBC Two
Amol Rajan talks to a true game changer: Billie Jean King. A record-breaking tennis player on the court, and a boundary-busting social activist off the court, King dominated tennis whilst campaigning to get the women’s sport recognised and female athletes treated as equal to the men.
At her spiritual home of Wimbledon – where she holds the record for most career wins – King talks to Rajan about her lifelong battle for equality and inclusion, and how she has balanced her activism with both a record-breaking sports career and a tumultuous personal life.
In a tennis career spanning nearly 30 years, Billie Jean King became the first female sports superstar, winning 39 Grand Slam titles and holding the world number one position for six years.
As the first female athlete-activist, King transformed the women’s game. She and eight other renegades created professional women’s tennis when they started the first ever women’s tennis tour in 1971. King then co-founded the Women’s Tennis Association and forced the US Open to become the first Grand Slam tournament to offer equal prize money to its male and female players.
During the 1970s, while at the very top of her game and height of her activism, King was contending with intense turmoil in her private life. News of an abortion she had was made public against her will, at a time before the Roe v Wade ruling made legal abortion a constitutional right in the US. Meanwhile, she struggled to come to terms with her homosexuality while married to a man, before being publicly outed. In 1981, King became the first prominent professional female athlete to speak publicly about her homosexuality and, as a result, lost all her endorsements overnight.
In discussing her extraordinary life, Billie Jean King and Amol Rajan also touch on topical issues such as the sport world’s response to the war in Ukraine, trans athletes and mental health matters.
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About Amol Rajan Interviews
Amol Rajan, the BBC’s media editor, interviews the global, era-defining pioneers, leaders and maverick thinkers who are shaping our rapidly changing 21st-century world.
This show is broadcast on BBC Two, also known as the British Broadcasting Corporation.