The Legacy of the Original 9 in Tennis to U.S. Women’s Soccer World Cup Today

“While some sporting brands used International Women’s Day to launch their Women’s World Cup team kits, lawyers representing the world-champion U.S. team were on their way to a California courthouse to file a landmark lawsuit that would rock the sport.”

—Philip O’Connor, “U.S. women’s fight for fairness puts soccer World Cup in focus.” Reuters. March 9, 2019.

It seems like this might be a good time to mention the Original 9, Billie Jean King and women’s tennis: 

“We wanted to be paid equally and we wanted to be treated fairly. Originally we had hoped to partner with the men’s tennis tour and have a unified voice in the sport on a global basis. But the guys wanted no part of it. And not every women’s player wanted to join us.

So we went to plan B.

For a tense few days in September 1970, we sat in a semicircle in Gladys’ home in Houston and debated the pros and cons of breaking away and starting our own tour. For us, everything was at risk. The USLTA (now the USTA, the governing body of tennis in this country) threatened us with suspension and expulsion. The Australians faced an even stronger enemy in their federation. They were told if they signed with us, their playing days were over.

With one unified voice, each of us signed a ceremonial $1 contract with Gladys to play in the inaugural Virginia Slims of Houston. We drew a line in the sand and we put everything we had on that line. It was now up to us to create our own tour, to find a place to make a living and to breathe life into women’s professional tennis.”

—Billie Jean King, “The Legacy of the Original 9.The Player’s Tribune. August 26, 2015

It’s now 49 years later, and it’s still the same nonsense. But, on a hopeful note, things do change. It’s also great to see women players that have benefited from previous generations, such as Serena Williams, lending their voices to help women in other sports. If you are inclined, you might want to consider adding your voice as well, there are links to FIFA’s social media accounts on its website.

Also worth a mention, there’s a good retelling of Billie Jean King’s story in Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls, read by Jessica Valenti. It’s something little Rebel Girls, or anyone in your life, will appreciate. Recommended.