Billie Jean King Becomes Gay Games Ambassador

Thu. April 1, 2004 12:00 AM by News Staff

Gay Games VII will be 15-22 July 2006 in Chicago

Chicago, IL - Tennis legend Billie Jean King, celebrated as one of the most important women of the 20th Century, has become an official Ambassador of the Federation of Gay Games (FGG). She joins Olympic gold-medalist Bruce Hayes, former U.S. Ambassador James C. Hormel, actress and activist Judith Light, and artist Tom Bianchi as Gay Games Ambassadors.

The announcement of King's support of the Gay Games movement was made jointly by Chicago Games, Inc., host of Gay Games VII, and the FGG. King, a part-time Chicagoan, has strong ties to the Windy City through both the sports and non-profit communities. She is co-chair of the Honorary Board for the Center on Halsted, Chicago's new multi-million dollar community center, expected to open just in time for the Gay Games in Chicago.

"The Gay Games have long held a special place in my heart," said Billie Jean King in a statement. "Together, the previous six Gay Games have motivated millions worldwide with the mission of achieving one's personal best, regardless of sexual orientation. Just as with the women's sports movement, the Gay Games have helped to tear down stereotypes. I am particularly pleased to lend my support as Chicago is poised to continue the legacy as host of Gay Games VII in 2006."

"We are immensely honored that Ms. King has chosen to become a Gay Games Ambassador," said FGG co-president Kathleen Webster of Philadelphia. "Billie Jean King galvanized the women's movement in sports. Since she courageously came out as a lesbian, she has also served as a role model for gay and lesbian athletes. As a lesbian martial arts competitor, I am grateful to have followed in the pioneering footsteps of Ms. King."

Billie Jean King has long been strongly committed to the worldwide sports movement. Her World Team Tennis Charities promotes health, fitness, education and social change. The organization was established by King, one of the greatest tennis champions of all-time with a record 20 Wimbledon Championships. Even more significantly, she remains a champion for social change. She was a leader of the women's rights movement in the 1970s and is largely responsible for the popularity of women's sports today. She was named by Life Magazine as one of the 100 Most Important Americans of the 20th Century.

Over the years King has raised or personally given to charities supporting tennis, sports, health, education, minorities, gay and lesbian groups, children, families, and opportunities for women. She is a founder of the Women's Sports Foundation, and co-founder of World Team Tennis. She is currently Coach of the U.S. Fed Cup team for the USTA.

"Billie Jean King has been an inspiration to millions of athletes around the world, and she has inspired the tens of thousands of athletes who are part of the Gay Games movement," said FGG co-president Roberto Mantaci of Paris. Mantaci, a swimmer, added "Many gay men see Ms. King as a role model because she has so strongly fought against homophobia in sports."

Ms. King first supported the Gay Games with videotaped remarks of encouragement shown at the opening ceremony of Gay Games IV in New York in 1994.

Her renewed participation in the Gay Games movement in support of Chicago is seen as a natural continuation of that early support.

"Because of Ms. King's strong Chicago roots, we wanted her to be the first new Ambassador announced once Chicago was selected to host Gay Games VII," said Tracy Baim, Co Vice-Chair of Chicago Games, Inc. "She has been a vital contributor to our community, and we are excited about her support of the Gay Games 22-year legacy." Gay Games VII will take place 15-22 July 2006.

After several years as the dominant female tennis player on the women¹s tour, in 1967 she was selected as "Outstanding Female Athlete of the World." In 1972 she was named Sports Illustrated "Sportsperson of the Year," the first woman to be so honored; and in 1973, she was dubbed "Female Athlete of the Year." Billie Jean King spoke out for women and their right to earn comparable money in tennis and other sports. Her constant lobbying and commitments have broken many barriers, extending her influence beyond her on court performances.

After Bobby Riggs beat Margaret Court in tennis on Mother¹s Day, 1973, King struck back by beating him at the Houston Astrodome Sept. 30 of that year. The "Battle of the Sexes" was an international television extravaganza. After defeating Riggs 6-4, 6-3, 6-3, King told the media, "This is the culmination of a lifetime in the sport. Tennis has always been reserved for the rich, the white, the males and I've always been pledged to change all that."

Instituted in 2002, the Gay Games Ambassador Program brings prominent athletes, artists, politicians and other individuals together on an ongoing basis to promote the Gay Games.

The Federation of Gay Games is the international governing body that perpetuates the quadrennial Gay Games. The Gay Games was conceived by Dr. Tom Waddell, an Olympic decathlete, and was first held in San Francisco in 1982 with 1,350 participants. Subsequent Gay Games were held in San Francisco (1986; 3,500 participants), Vancouver (1990; 7,300 participants), New York (1994; 12,500 participants), Amsterdam (1998; 13,000 participants), and Sydney (2002; 11,000 participants). For more information, visit

Chicago Games, Inc. is the host of Gay Games VII and is led by experienced civic leaders from Chicago's business, sports and non-profit sectors. More than 12,000 participants are expected to compete in more than 25 individual and team sports 15-22 July 2006.