In 1974, legendary entertainer and movie star Bob Hope presented a $5,000 check to tennis legend Billie Jean King, honoring her as the Gillette Female Athlete of the Year. King promptly used the award to found the Women’s Sports Foundation that same year.
After a bumpy start, King led the way for the first Salute to Women in Sports in 1980, prompting Life magazine to name her “One of the Most Important Americans of the 20th Century” in 1990. Her legacy continued, advocating equal prize money for women in professional tennis tournaments as well as equal rights for all people.
The United States Tennis Association named the tennis complex at Flushing Meadow Park the “Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.” King’s dedication to equality in all sports has earned her worldwide recognition.
The 32nd annual Women’s Sports Foundation’s Salute to Women in Sports at Cipriani Wall Street saw King making remarks on the podium, with ESPN’s Bonnie Bernstein as the MC of the affair.
The USA women’s ski jumping team won the Visa Team Award, and Yani Tseng won Sports Woman of the Year-Individual. The Visa Corporation was honored with the Billie Jean King Contribution of the Year. Visa has continued their support of USA gymnastics, USA ski and snowboard and USA track and field.
Abby Wambach won Team Sportswoman of the Year and Winter Vinecki was the 12-year-old winner of the Annika Inspiration Award. Vinecki has raised over $300,000 for the battle against prostate cancer.
Laila Ali, president of the Women’s Sports Foundation, said, “I am so proud of the work of the Women’s Sports Foundation and could not be more honored to play a part in their contribution to women in sports.”
King, looking out over the audience, noted, “It is remarkable to have this many influential, powerful and strong women in one room. There is really no other event that compares to the Women’s Sports Foundation’s annual salute.”