Billie Jean King was up for the challenge of advocating for parity in women's sports, founding the Women's Tennis Association and winning the "Battle of the Sexes" match against Bobby Riggs, among other achievements for women's rights.
It led her to Capitol Hill to testify in support of Title IX, where she made perhaps her greatest contribution for the cause. The tennis Hall of Famer didn't stop there, and in honor of the anniversary of the federal law's passage, takes a different stage almost 50 years later.
King will serve as keynote speaker at Gillette Stadium on June 9, as Kraft Sports + Entertainment (KSE) and Kraft Analytics Group (KAGR) host "Equal Play: Celebrating 50 Years of Title IX." There was no one better for the job, according to Jessica Gelman, CEO of KAGR, and Jen Ferron, CMO of KSE, who together led efforts to put on the event.
"Billie Jean King was our priority from when we first conceived the idea of celebrating the milestone anniversary of this historic event," Gelman said.
"She is an inspirational leader for so many of us. Her actions consistently backed up her beliefs. She has led in every phase of her life, as an athlete who fought for equal pay, as a policy driver creating the Women's Sports Foundation, and as an entrepreneur founding new tennis leagues. She is an icon. We are so honored she is joining us because she is a role model for us personally and has been a great influencer across New England."
The private event will feature a fireside chat with King, moderated by award-winning sports journalist, author, and TV personality Jackie MacMullan – a legend for women in sports in her own right. Along with the tennis great and renowned NBA reporter, the event will recognize a few other women who shaped the landscape for those who followed.
Michele Roberts, the former executive director of the National Basketball Players Association, Kristine Lilly, the retired United States women's national soccer team legend, and Kathy Delaney-Smith, the longtime head coach of the Harvard women's basketball program, are among the extraordinary women who, with MacMullan, will make up a panel for a Q&A portion of the afternoon.
"As female sports executives, and former college athletes ourselves, Jessica and I wanted to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Title IX as a milestone that allowed us to reflect on the profound impact of the law, in particular, for women in sports," Ferron said, discussing their inspiration behind the celebration.
Women throughout KAGR and KSE have been engaged in the planning, who like Ferron and Gelman, have thrived in the male-dominated sports industry.
Recognizing the position they're in, the high-level executives are grateful to Robert and Jonathan Kraft for their continued support.
"Raising awareness and using our platform to effect change is part of our responsibility as leaders," Gelman said. "As women, we understand the inequities faced in society at large, and in particular the male-dominated sports industry. We have been fortunate throughout our careers with the support the Krafts have given us. We want to pay it forward, and hopefully, inspire the next generation to use their platforms."
KSE and KAGR employees, as well as representatives from other professional sports teams, high schools, and universities throughout New England, will be in attendance.
"Our goal is that the Equal Play event is both a celebration of what has been accomplished by the incredible groundbreakers and legends that have paved the way, but a reminder that our work is not complete," Ferron said.
"It's our responsibility to support the future Difference Makers who must continue to fight for equality."