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Billie Jean King On Her Tennis Dreams And The Roots Of Her Activism

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Billie Jean King (@BillieJeanKing) -- a 2009 recipient of Presidential Medal of Freedom, our nation’s highest civilian honor – is perhaps more responsible than any other individual for the gains in women’s and girls’ sports throughout the last 50 years. She has long been a pioneer for equality and social justice, founding the Women’s Sports Foundation and the Women’s Tennis Association, and defeating Bobby Riggs in the "Battle of the Sexes" tennis match.

King won 39 Grand Slam titles during her career, a statistic partially responsible for the National Tennis Center, home of the US Open, being renamed the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. She serves on the boards of the Women’s Sports Foundation, the Andy Roddick Foundation and the Elton John AIDS Foundation and is a member of the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition.

Here, Billie Jean traces the roots of her activism to an epiphany at age 12, realizing how much white she saw in tennis and committing to a pursuit for equal rights in her sport and beyond. In a deep exploration of what has continued to drive her for the rest of her life, she recalls dreaming (while sleeping with her racket) and daydreaming about tennis,learning its history, reading books on the sport and deciding to win Wimbledon and become the world's top player. She also recalls attending a Pacific Coast League baseball game at age 9 and being "crushed" by the realization that as a girl, she could not play professional baseball.