By Rick Horrow and Karla Swatek
October 14, 2013
40 years ago, the Women’s Tennis Association was created, uniting female pros in a powerful bloc by which they could collectively negotiate tournament deals and purses lucrative enough to let them earn a living playing the game they loved.
Last month, we also celebrated the 40th anniversary of the Bobby Riggs-Billie Jean King “Battle of the Sexes” match in Houston, Texas. That legendary event transcended sports to impact gender dynamics from the bedroom to the boardroom, and was a major catalyst in ensuring equal treatment and pay for women everywhere.
In tennis, it helped create today’s Major purses nearing a three million dollar payout for the women’s and men’s champion alike.
But lost in the hype still surrounding the “Battle of the Sexes” is that it impacted the TV rotary channel knob far more than bank accounts. The Riggs-King match was watched by an estimated global audience of 90 million, Super Bowl level viewership that eventually paved the way for the multimillion dollar TV rights fees now enjoyed annually by Wimbledon, the U.S. Open, and other mega tennis events.