NEW YORK ( Associated Press) — Billie Jean King admired a portrait of Patsy Mink, considered the “Mother of Title IX,” at the US Capitol to mark the 50th anniversary of Title IX.
“She knew about exclusion firsthand and had the confidence and leadership to challenge and change discrimination through the law,” King said at the unveiling of the portrait at the Statuary Hall in Washington on Thursday.
Title IX, which prohibits gender discrimination in any federally funded educational program or activity, allowed more women to enter universities and increased participation in sports. There is still work to be done: 1.1 million more boys are involved in sports in secondary school; women made up 44% of college athletes in 2021.
Donna Lopiano, Title IX expert on more than 40 court cases and former director of women’s sports at Texas, says “90% of institutions fail to qualify” at the Division I level. Title IX requires equal scholarships and places on athletic lists depending on the gender ratio of the student population.
King, a gender equality activist for more than half a century, has won 39 Grand Slam tennis titles and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. She recently spoke to The Associated Press about the anniversary. Here are her ideas, edited and condensed.
Associated Press: In 1972, it was almost impossible for women to go to college, let alone play sports. What do you remember about the culture when Title IX was passed?
KING: It’s really an education amendment, because before 1972 we had class quotas. The quota was as follows: 5% of the class could be women, and schools refused people. Places like Stanford or if you wanted to be a doctor at Harvard. I went to college before getting title IX and worked two jobs. Arthur Ashe and Stan Smith had full scholarships (to play tennis). In these 37 words of Title IX there is the word “activity”. This word is the only reason we really have a women’s sport. (Then Indiana Republican) Senator Birch Bay said they barely put the word “activities” in the law. Just in case, they said, “Let’s just leave it, you never know.” Today we have 60% of women in college.
Associated Press: A year later, you famously beat self-proclaimed chauvinist Bobby Riggs in a Battle of the Sexes tennis match watched by millions on TV. Why was the victory so important?
KING: I really think it helped push the idea of equality, women’s sports and scholarships. 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 deserve equality. We couldn’t get a credit card ourselves when I played Bobby. When I founded the Women’s Sports Foundation in 1974, I said we should be Section IX’s guardian angels and really help protect it.
Associated Press: Since the passage of Section IX, what is the most noticeable progress and what areas still need to be improved?
KING: I think title IX helped the suburban white girls the most. In the next 50 years, we really need to focus on getting more and more girls of color. We need to make sure we take care of girls with disabilities. I know that many schools do not comply. The Office of Civil Rights should keep an eye on everything. It is very small, not enough people to be a real police force.
Associated Press: How do you feel about transgender people playing sports?
KING: We have to help the LGBT community and especially trans athletes. I really love inclusion, so I want everyone to have the opportunity to play, but I also want it to be fair. Some people tend to think they shouldn’t be allowed at all. I’m always concerned that everyone has the opportunity to play and compete. It is not cut or dried. These things are calculated for the next 50 years, because it is still about equality and fairness.
Associated Press: You recently invested in Los Angeles’ new professional women’s soccer team, Angel City FC, along with 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 the first Angel City game, it was amazing, all the tickets were sold out. It is the first football team to be run primarily by women, as well as Serena’s (Williams) husband (Alexis Ohanian). Of course, I want more and more women to be owners in everything. We are also proud to be co-owners of Dodgers. I would like to see more professional leagues in softball and ice hockey. I encourage girls to become possessive – you have the power, you can make decisions.
To learn more about the impact of Title IX, see the full Associated Press Pack: https://apnews.com/hub/title-ix Video timeline: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NdgNI6BZpw0
Copyright 2022 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or distributed without permission.