Battle of the Sexes

A courageous advocate for gender equality for women from a young age, Billie Jean King accepted a challenge to play a match against former number 1-ranked tennis player Bobby Riggs. In doing so, she launched her fight for parity into the worldwide limelight.

It was 1973, and Riggs, a top men’s player in the 1930s and 1940s, was now a 55-year-old self-described hustler and male chauvinist. He claimed the women’s game was so inferior to the men’s game that even someone as old as he was could beat the current top female players. He challenged and defeated Margaret Court 6–2, 6–1.

Billie Jean, who had previously rejected challenges from Riggs, realized she now had to play him, and accepted his challenge to disprove his baseless assertions.

According to Billie Jean

“I’m taking this match very seriously. I love to win. I welcome the responsibility and the pressure. Bobby had better be ready.”

Billie Jean King

Primetime Television

90 Million Viewers

Promoters dubbed the match the “Battle of the Sexes,” and gave it a primetime television audience. 50 million people in the United States and an estimated 90 million people worldwide tuned in on September 20, 1973 to watch King versus Riggs in the Houston Astrodome. One of the most watched televised sporting events of all time, no tennis match before or since has been seen by so many.

Winner Takes All

Billie Jean beat Bobby Riggs in straight sets, 6–4, 6–3, 6–3, and earned the winner-take-all prize of $100,000.

The Battle of the Sexes tennis match was about more than simply defeating Riggs. She felt incredible pressure to win because, as she said afterward, “I thought it would set us back 50 years if I didn’t win that match. It would ruin the women’s [tennis] tour and affect all women’s self-esteem. To beat a 55-year-old guy was no thrill for me. The thrill was exposing a lot of new people to tennis.”

Empowering Women

Perhaps no other sporting event has played a more significant role in developing greater respect and recognition for women athletes than the Battle of the Sexes. Billie Jean’s victory, together with the passage of Title IX, is often credited with both igniting a boom in women’s sports participation, and for empowering women to advocate for equal pay in all sectors of the workforce.

Title IX

Billie vs. Bobby

Battle of the Sexes

To commemorate the 35th anniversary of the historic match, Billie Jean authored Pressure is a Privilege: Lessons I’ve Learned from Life and the Battle of the Sexes in 2008.

In September 2017, Fox Searchlight will release the film Battle of the Sexes, starring Emma Stone as Billie Jean and Steve Carell as Bobby Riggs.

The Movie

Billie vs. Bobby

Battle of the Sexes

To commemorate the 35th anniversary of the historic match, Billie Jean authored Pressure is a Privilege: Lessons I’ve Learned from Life and the Battle of the Sexes in 2008.

In September 2017, Fox Searchlight will release the film Battle of the Sexes, starring Emma Stone as Billie Jean and Steve Carell as Bobby Riggs.

The Movie

“CHAMPIONS ADJUST.”

Billie Jean King