Chairman Crowley Introduces Billie Jean King Congressional Gold Medal Act to Honor Decades of Leadership

February 13, 2018
Press Release

(Queens, NY) – Today, House Democratic Caucus Chairman Joe Crowley (D-NY) and Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.) introduced the Billie Jean King Congressional Gold Medal Act to recognize King’s vast achievements and contributions to athletics, women’s rights, the LGBT community, and American culture.

“Time and time again, Billie Jean King has broken barriers,” said Chairman Crowley. “Among the numerous accolades she has earned over the course of her career, the Congressional Gold Medal would formally recognize King’s leadership in the fight for equality and her achievements in making professional sports more accessible to all Americans.”

Over her distinguished career, King demonstrated tremendous courage by demanding that female athletes receive equal pay and respect for their work. She harnessed her platform to promote women and pushed the battle for equality significantly forward. In 1973, King defeated Bobby Riggs, a former world No.1 tennis player, in a breathtaking match that solidified women’s place in tennis. 

“Billie Jean redefined the very role of women in both sports and American culture,” said Congressman Lowenthal. “The word icon is simply too small to capture the enormous impact she has had on not just tennis, not just on the United States, but on the world. She is a pioneer in athletics, a trailblazer in the fight for equality, a role model for women and the LGBT community, and an inspiration to every American. She has not only earned this honor - she deserves it for the ground she has broken and the paths that she has set.”

“I am so proud to be an American and it would be an amazing honor to receive the Congressional Gold Medal,” said King. “I fully appreciate the importance and the significance of this honor and to be considered is a privilege. I am thankful to Chairman Crowley and Rep. Lowenthal for their support and for the work they continue to do for the people of New York and California.”

“Billie Jean King is one of tennis’ all-time greatest champions, but more, she has used her platform of popularity to champion myriad important causes for the betterment of society as a whole," said President and Chairman of the USTA Katrina Adams. "She is a pioneer in the truest sense, a tireless crusader for women’s rights, LGBTQ rights, and social justice. She has devoted her life to leveling the playing field for all, and for that reason, the USTA wholeheartedly supports awarding this legendary champion and courageous crusader the Congressional Gold Medal.”

"Billie Jean King is a national treasure, and I cannot think of an individual more deserving of the Congressional Gold Medal. An accomplished athlete, Billie Jean has dedicated her career and her life to social justice and is a visionary for equality for all,” said Deborah Antoine, CEO Women’s Sports Foundation. “Receiving the high honor of a Congressional Gold Medal would affirm what many of us already know about Billie Jean King, that she is a change agent, having advocated for all, especially women and the LGBT community both in athletics and our society.” 

The Congressional Gold Medal is an award bestowed by the United States Congress to recognize an individual’s immense contributions to American culture. Along with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, it ranks as the highest civilian award in the country. In 2009, King was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama.

The legislation is endorsed by the American Association of University Women (AAUW), Association of Title IX Administrators (ATIXA), Human Rights Campaign, Girls Inc., National Center for Lesbian Rights, National Council of Youth Sports, National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund, Women’s Tennis Association, Women’s Sports Foundation, and United States Tennis Association.