By MELISSA MURPHY, AP Sports Writer
NEW YORK (AP) — Billie Jean King admired a portrait of Patsy Mink, considered the “mother of Title IX,” at the United States Capitol on the 50th anniversary of Title IX.
“She knew exclusion firsthand and she had the confidence and leadership to challenge and change discrimination through the law,” King said at the unveiling of the portrait at Statuary Hall in Washington on Thursday.
Title IX, which prohibits sex discrimination in any educational program or activity receiving federal funds, has allowed more women to enter universities and expanded athletic participation. There is still work to be done: 1.1 million more boys play sports in high school; women made up 44% of college athletes in 2021.
Donna Lopiano, Title IX Expert in More Than 40 Court Cases and Former Women’s Athletic Director in Texas, Says “90% of Institutions Are Non-Compliant” at the Division I Level. Title IX Requires Equitable Scholarships and places on the sports roster based on the ratio of male to female students.
King, a champion of gender equality for more than half a century, has won 39 Grand Slam tennis titles and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom. She recently spoke to The Associated Press about the anniversary. Here are his ideas, edited and condensed.
AP: In 1972, women could barely go to college, let alone play sports. What do you remember about the culture when Title IX was passed?
KING: It’s really an educational amendment because we had class quotas before 1972. The quotas were 5% of the class could be women and the schools were turning people away. Places like Stanford or if you wanted to be a doctor at Harvard. I was a college kid before Title IX and had two jobs. Arthur Ashe and Stan Smith had full scholarships (to play tennis). In these 37 words of Title IX is the word “activity”. That word is really the only reason we have women’s sports. (Republican of Indiana at the time) Sen. Birch Bayh said they barely got the “activity” into law. As a catch-all, they said, “Let’s leave it in, you never know.” We have 60% of women going to university today.
AP: A year later, you beat self-proclaimed chauvinist Bobby Riggs in the “Battle of the Sexes” tennis match seen by millions on television. Why was the victory so important?
KING: I think that helped move the idea of equality, sports and scholarship for women forward. I knew it was about social change and we were only in our third year of professional tennis. I wanted to change the hearts and minds of the country to believe in Title IX, to believe that women deserved equality. We couldn’t get a credit card on our own when I played Bobby. When I started the Women’s Sports Foundation in 1974, I said we should be guardian angels of Title IX and really help protect it.
AP: Since the adoption of Title IX, what is the most obvious progress and what are the areas that still need to be worked on?
KING: I think Title IX probably helped white suburban girls the most. Over the next 50 years, we really need to focus on getting more and more girls of color. We need to make sure that we take care of girls with disabilities. I know a lot of schools are not in compliance. The Civil Rights Office is supposed to enforce everything. It’s very small, not enough people to be a real police force.
AP: What is your opinion on transgender people who play sports?
KING: We need to help the LGBT community and especially trans athletes. I’m very big on inclusion, so I want everyone to have a chance to play, but I also want it to be fair. Some people tend to think they shouldn’t be allowed at all. I always worry about everyone having a chance to play and compete. It’s not cut and dry. These things are for the next 50 years, because it’s always about equality and fairness.
AP: You recently invested in the new Angel City FC women’s professional soccer team in Los Angeles, alongside Natalie Portman, Mia Hamm and others. Do you think female ownership is the wave of the future?
KING: (Wife) Ilana (Kloss) and I went to Angel City’s first game, it was amazing, they sold out. It’s the first soccer team run primarily by women, with Serena (Williams) husband (Alexis Ohanian). Absolutely, I want more and more women to own everything. We are also proud to be co-owners of the Dodgers. I would like to see more professional softball and ice hockey leagues. I encourage girls to own – you have the power, you can make decisions.
For more on the impact of Title IX, check out the full AP package: https://apnews.com/hub/title-ix Video timeline: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v= NdgNI6BZpw0
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