This tennis icon paved the way for women in sports | Billie Jean King

This tennis icon paved the way for women in sports | Billie Jean King

Billie Jean King: Hi, everyone! (Applause) Thanks, Pat. Thank you! Getting me all wound up, now! (Laughter) Pat Mitchell: Good! You know, when I was watching
the video again of the match, you must have felt
like the fate of the world’s women was on every stroke you took. Were you feeling that? BJK: First of all, Bobby Riggs —
he was the former number one player, he wasn’t just some hacker, by the way. He was one of my heroes and I admired him. And that’s the reason I beat him,
actually, because I respected him. (Laughter) It’s true — my mom
and especially my dad always said: “Respect your opponent,
and never underestimate them, ever.” And he was correct.
He was absolutely correct. But I knew it was about social change. And I was really nervous
whenever we announced it, and I felt like the whole world
was on my shoulders. And I thought, “If I lose, it’s going
to put women back 50 years, at least.” Title IX had just been passed
the year before — June 23, 1972. And women’s professional tennis — there were nine of us who signed
a one-dollar contract in 1970 — now remember, the match is in ’73. So we were only in our
third year of having a tour where we could actually play,
have a place to compete and make a living. So there were nine of us that signed
that one-dollar contract. And our dream was for any girl,
born any place in the world — if she was good enough — there would be a place for her to compete
and for us to make a living. Because before 1968,
we made 14 dollars a day, and we were under the control
of organizations. So we really wanted
to break away from that. But we knew it wasn’t really
about our generation so much; we knew it was about
the future generations. We do stand on the shoulders of the people
that came before us, there is no question. But every generation
has the chance to make it better. That was really on my mind. I really wanted to start matching
the hearts and minds to Title IX. Title IX, in case anybody doesn’t know,
which a lot of people probably don’t, said that any federal funds given
to a high school, college or university, either public or private, had to — finally —
give equal monies to boys and girls. And that changed everything. (Applause) So you can have a law, but it’s changing the hearts and minds
to match up with it. That’s when it really rocks, totally. So that was on my mind. I wanted to start that change
in the hearts and minds. But two things came out of that match. For women: self-confidence, empowerment. They actually had enough nerve
to ask for a raise. Some women have waited
10, 15 years to ask. I said, “More importantly,
did you get it?” (Laughter) And they did! And for the men? A lot of the men today don’t realize it, but if you’re in your 50s, 60s
or whatever, late 40s, you’re the first generation of men
of the Women’s Movement — whether you like it or not! (Laughter) (Applause) And for the men, what happened for the men,
they’d come up to me — and most times, the men are the ones
who have tears in their eyes, it’s very interesting. They go, “Billie, I was very young
when I saw that match, and now I have a daughter. And I am so happy I saw that
as a young man.” And one of those young men,
at 12 years old, was President Obama. And he actually told me that
when I met him, he said: “You don’t realize it,
but I saw that match at 12. And now I have two daughters, and it has made a difference
in how I raise them.” So both men and women got a lot
out of it, but different things. PM: And now there are generations —
at least one or two — who have experienced the equality that Title IX and other fights
along the way made possible. And for women, there are generations
who have also experienced teamwork. They got to play team sports
in a way they hadn’t before. So you had a legacy already built
in terms of being an athlete, a legacy of the work you did
to lobby for equal pay for women athletes and the Women’s Sports Foundation. What now are you looking to accomplish with The Billie Jean King
Leadership Initiative? BJK: I think it goes back
to an epiphany I had at 12. At 11, I wanted to be the number one
tennis player in the world, and a friend had asked me to play
and I said, “What’s that?” Tennis was not in my family —
basketball was, other sports. Fast forward to 12 years old, (Laughter) and I’m finally starting
to play in tournaments where you get a ranking
at the end of the year. So I was daydreaming
at the Los Angeles Tennis Club, and I started thinking about my sport
and how tiny it was, but also that everybody who played
wore white shoes, white clothes, played with white balls —
everybody who played was white. And I said to myself, at 12 years old,
“Where is everyone else?” And that just kept sticking in my brain. And that moment, I promised myself I’d fight
for equal rights and opportunities for boys and girls, men and women,
the rest of my life. And that tennis, if I was fortunate
enough to become number one — and I knew, being a girl,
it would be harder to have influence, already at that age — that I had this platform. And tennis is global. And I thought, “You know what? I’ve been given an opportunity
that very few people have had.” I didn’t know if I was going
to make it — this was only 12. I sure wanted it, but making it
is a whole other discussion. I just remember I promised myself,
and I really try to keep my word. That’s who I truly am,
just fighting for people. And, unfortunately, women have had less. And we are considered less. And so my attentions,
where did they have to go? It was just … you have to. And learn to stick up for yourself,
hear your own voice. You hear the same words
keep coming out all the time, and I got really lucky
because I had an education. And I think if you can see it
you can be it, you know? If you can see it, you can be it. You look at Pat,
you look at other leaders, you look at these speakers,
look at yourself, because everyone — everyone — can do something extraordinary. Every single person. PM: And your story, Billie,
has inspired so many women everywhere. Now with the Billie Jean King
Leadership Initiative, you’re taking on an even bigger cause. Because one thing we hear a lot
about is women taking their voice, working to find their way
into leadership positions. But what you’re talking
about is even bigger than that. It’s inclusive leadership. And this is a generation that has grown up
thinking more inclusively — BJK: Isn’t it great?
Look at the technology! It’s amazing how it connects us all!
It’s about connection. It’s simply amazing
what’s possible because of it. But the Billie Jean King
Leadership Initiative is really about the workforce mostly,
and trying to change it, so people can actually go to work
and be their authentic selves. Because most of us have two jobs: One, to fit in — I’ll give you
a perfect example. An African American woman
gets up an hour earlier to go to work, straightens her hair in the bathroom, goes to the bathroom
probably four, five, six times a day to keep straightening her hair,
to keep making sure she fits in. So she’s working two jobs. She’s got this other job,
whatever that may be, but she’s also trying to fit in. Or this poor man who kept his diploma — he went to University of Michigan, but he never would talk about
his poverty as a youngster, ever — just would not mention it. So he made sure they saw
he was well-educated. And then you see a gay guy
who has an NFL — which means American football
for all of you out there, it’s a big deal, it’s very macho — and he talked about football all the time, because he was gay
and he didn’t want anybody to know. It just goes on and on. So my wish for everyone is to be able
to be their authentic self 24/7, that would be the ultimate. And we catch ourselves — I mean,
I catch myself to this day. Even being gay I catch myself,
you know, like, (Gasp) a little uncomfortable,
a little surge in my gut, feeling not totally
comfortable in my own skin. So, I think you have to ask yourself — I want people to be themselves,
whatever that is, just let it be. PM: And the first research
the Leadership Initiative did showed that, that these examples you just used — that many of us have the problem
of being authentic. But what you’ve just looked at
is this millennial generation, who have benefited from all these
equal opportunities — which may not be equal
but exist everywhere — BJK: First of all, I’m really lucky. Partnership with Teneo,
a strategic company that’s amazing. That’s really the reason
I’m able to do this. I’ve had two times in my life where I’ve actually had men
really behind me with power. And that was in the old days
with Philip Morris with Virginia Slims, and this is the second time
in my entire life. And then Deloitte. The one thing I wanted was data — facts. So Deloitte sent out a survey, and over 4,000 people now have answered, and we’re continuing in the workplace. And what do the millennials feel? Well, they feel a lot, but what
they’re so fantastic about is — you know, our generation was like,
“Oh, we’re going to get representation.” So if you walk into a room,
you see everybody represented. That’s not good enough anymore,
which is so good! So the millennials are fantastic;
they want connection, engagement. They just want you to tell us
what you’re feeling, what you’re thinking, and get into the solution. They’re problem-solvers, and of course, you’ve got
the information at your fingertips, compared to when I was growing up. PM: What did the research show you
about millennials? Are they going to make a difference? Are they going to create a world where
there is really an inclusive work force? BJK: Well, in 2025,
75 percent of the global workforce is going to be millennials. I think they are going
to help solve problems. I think they have
the wherewithal to do it. I know they care a lot. They have big ideas
and they can make big things happen. I want to stay in the now
with the young people, I don’t want to get behind. (Laughter) PM: I don’t think there’s any chance! But what you found out
in the research about millennials is not really the experience that a lot
of people have with millennials. BJK: No, well, if we want to talk —
OK, I’ve been doing my little mini-survey. I’ve been talking to the Boomers,
who are their bosses, and I go, “What do you think about the millennials?” And I’m pretty excited, like it’s good, and they get this face — (Laughter) “Oh, you mean the ‘Me’ generation?” (Laughter) I say, “Do you really think so? Because I do think they care
about the environment and all these things.” And they go, “Oh, Billie,
they cannot focus.” (Laughter) They actually have proven that the average focus
for an 18-year-old is 37 seconds. (Laughter) They can’t focus. And they don’t really care. I just heard a story the other night: a woman owns a gallery
and she has these workers. She gets a text from one of the workers, like an intern, she’s
just starting — she goes, “Oh, by the way, I’m going to be late
because I’m at the hairdresser’s.” (Laughter) So she arrives, and this boss says, “What’s going on?” And she says, “Oh, I was late,
sorry, how’s it going?” She says, “Well, guess what?
I’d like you leave, you’re finished.” She goes, “OK.” (Laughter) No problem! PM: Now Billie, that story — I know, but that’s what
scares the boomers — I’m just telling you —
so I think it’s good for us to share. (Laughter) No, it is good for us to share, because we’re our authentic selves
and what we’re really feeling, so we’ve got to take it
both ways, you know? But I have great faith because — if you’ve been in sports like I have — every generation gets better. It’s a fact. With the Women’s Sports Foundation
being the advocates for Title IX still, because we’re trying
to keep protecting the law, because it’s in a tenuous position always, so we really are concerned, and we do a lot of research. That’s very important to us. And I want to hear from people. But we really have to protect
what Title IX stands for worldwide. And you heard President Carter
talk about how Title IX is protected. And do you know that every single lawsuit that girls, at least in sports,
have gone up against — whatever institutions — has won? Title IX is there to protect us. And it is amazing. But we still have to get
the hearts and minds — the hearts and minds
to match the legislation is huge. PM: So what gets you up every morning? What keeps you sustaining your work, sustaining the fight
for equality, extending it, always exploring new areas,
trying to find new ways … ? BJK: Well, I always drove my parents crazy
because I was always the curious one. I’m highly motivated. My younger brother was
a Major League Baseball player. My poor parents did not care
if we were any good. (Laughter) And we drove them crazy because we pushed, we pushed because
we wanted to be the best. And I think it’s because of what
I’m hearing today in TED talks. I think to listen to these
different women, to listen to different people, to listen to President Carter —
90 years old, by the way, and he we was throwing these figures
out that I would never — I’d have to go, “Excuse me, wait a minute, I need
to get a list out of these figures.” He was rattling off —
I mean, that’s amazing, I’m sorry. PM: He’s an amazing man. (Applause) BJK: And then you’re going to have
President Mary Robinson, who’s a former president — Thank you, Irish! 62 percent! LGBTQ! Yes! (Applause) Congress is voting in June
on same-sex marriage, so these are things that for some people
are very hard to hear. But always remember,
every one of us is an individual, a human being with a beating heart, who cares and wants to live
their authentic life. OK? You don’t have to agree with somebody, but everyone has the opportunity. I think we all have an obligation to continue to keep moving
the needle forward, always. And these people have been so inspiring. Everyone matters. And every one of you is an influencer. You out there listening, out there
in the world, plus the people here — every single person’s an influencer. Never, ever forget that. OK? So don’t ever give up on yourself. PM: Billie, you have been
an inspiration for us. BJK: Thanks, Pat! (Applause) Thanks, TED! (Applause) Thanks a lot!

53 Replies to “This tennis icon paved the way for women in sports | Billie Jean King”

  1. How do I always know when I simply see the words 'Women' in a video it will 9/10 have a negative like/dislike bar.
    Whats even funnier is that this video was released 4 minutes ago and already has dislikes despite being a 16 minute vid :L

  2. man people just see a girl and they dislike the video that they could not have possibly even watched yet. assholes not intellectuals

  3. Wait, are you telling me that this brave person was able to play tennis despite having a vagina ?
    How impressive. #Brave #Hero #Empowering

  4. Aw man, is TED falling for the Buzzfeed clickbait titles as well? All it misses is "this is what happened next" at the end. Fallen so deep…

  5. "Tennis legend Billie Jean King isn't just a pioneer of women's tennis โ€” she's a pioneer for women getting paid."

    She is an amazing woman who succeed in a male dominated environment.

    The dislikes and the comments show how men are upset because women are standing up for themselves and refusing to put up with their bullshit. I have bad news for you, guys: it will get worse.

  6. Does being my authentic self mean I can call out women for being annoying/bitchy without being called sexist? Because I'm for that world, but I doubt that's what they're talking about here.

    Plus it's a fractured view, my authentic self might go against someone else's authentic self, what happens then? What's been happening all this time, one gets its way and the other moves aside. It's an idealistic viewpoint and far too simple.

    The interviewer is a misandrist.

  7. Technology? no
    Education? no
    Design? no
    Most certainly not an idea worth spreading, at least on TED. It's be great on TEDx though…

  8. Yes, her losing a tennis match means: women will all be 50 years younger. Any posible outcome could have come out of that match. She won = more women would play tennis. She loses = more women would play tennis. Going out and say something like she says is stupid…

  9. I hope that talks involving women increase two-fold on TED. Perhaps then, we will finally see a majority of discussion that is not centering around a hatred of feminism or talks involving women. It's one thing to be critical of videos like these, but so many of the comments are being blindly negative.

    Back on topic: what a lovely interview! I really enjoyed listening to Ms. Kings stories.

  10. +florzinnha ( Thank you for ignoring my answers and stubbornly sticking to your narrowminded little narrative when you couldn't win the discussion. Next time, be smarter.

  11. In 1998 Serena and Venus Williams challenged the 209 ranked tennis player Karsten Brasch. He beat Serena 6-1 and Venus 6-2, two of the best female tennis players at the time.

  12. She is such a legend. I don't know why there are so many dislikes. Women's history and women's rights are so important and Billie Jean King is a leader for women and the LGBT community.

  13. Ted Talks use to blow me away now I feel like their running out of thing to talk about. (I have nothing against)

  14. So much hate on this vid, I want more tedtalks like this promoting womens achievements as you dont hear about much of this in everyday life and its important.
    I can see all the butthurt misogynists have started disliking the video without bothering to listen or watch it. I think what they dont like is a woman beat them at what they considered their own game, pun intended.

  15. i'd watch if rhonda rousey versed the guy that challenged all women…that'd be similar to equality right? and she says she could make it…perhaps make a move there? it'll be a knock to the people that are like "does that mean we can punch women?" perhaps not directly but it'll lead to something

  16. What annoys me about tennis is that now, at Wimbledon, you have a situation where the women get paid the same prize money, in spite of the fact that their matches are shorter and the women's game generates far less money.

  17. Didn't it come out a while back that the match was fixed? He threw the game to pay some debts. A woman who can't beat a man fair and square, and she's a hero?

  18. Yeah i want to congratulate Billie Jean King for beating a 55 year old past-his-prime tennis player. Maybe now she is officially a dinosaur. She can return to the tennis court against a 20 something male player to prove that women are still superior athletes.

  19. Had to pause the video and walk away in a daze for a while after that opening line "I respected him. And that's why I beat him".
    Absolutely floored me. What a champion.

  20. 8:36 be your authentic self 24/7.
    what a moronic entitled utopian DELUSIONAL D.R.E.A.M.
    does she actually think human civilization could have been created by living that way?

  21. This woman is one of the greatest athletes who not only beat the best in the 'Battle of the Sexes,' but also brought forth social changes for the good of all, not just for women. Her story continues to inspire others to turn their aspirations into life-changing realities. To never settle for less, because every individual who dares to dream is worth more than what mainstream institutions dictate. To follow our own paths. I ask you, do you want your life to mean something? Do you want to matter instead of settling for an anonymous existence? Then stop for a moment, listen to what Billie Jean King has to say, and learn from her. We all want to be so much more than what we are now.

  22. I am a person who has suffered from schizophrenia many times. I watched the war between men and women. This movie is no longer self-defeating. The rational DNA has reoccupied the height of my brain. I hope everyone can have a rational voice. When I can be rational, you can do it.Everyone can be rational.Rational is the power.

  23. Her comments prove how ridiculous and stupid feminist arguments are. Professional male tennis players play 3 out 5 sets, women 2 out 3. So the menโ€™s matches are longer. Also, the men are physically stronger. They draw bigger crowds. They OBVIOUSLY deserve more money. Bobby Riggs was 55 and she was 29 when they played โ€œThe Battle of the Sexesโ€ match. Was that a real man vs woman match? This pervert woman only distorts the truth! Shame on her!

  24. Been at number 1 for 5 years in a row, prime of her life at 29 years olf playing against a 55 year old man in it for the money.

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