Billie Jean King says gender equity in sport far from realised

FILE PHOTO: Tennis - US Open - New York, U.S. - August 28, 2017 - Billie Jean King speaks during the opening ceremony. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Nearly 50 years after Billie Jean King and the so-called “Original Nine” began their campaign for equal prize money in tennis, the 12-times Grand Slam winner said much more progress was needed in gender equity in sport.

“You look at all the years of soccer, of baseball, all these different sports, they didn’t encourage us to go into baseball, they told us to go into softball,” King told Reuters. “They wouldn’t let us run the marathon in the Olympics until 1984.

“It just goes on and on and on.”

Appearing at a Women’s Sports Foundation (WSF) event on Wednesday, where the U.S. women’s national soccer team was feted for its on-field performance, King said the squad’s lawsuit against its governing body for gender discrimination reflects much-needed progress.

“All we are is a microcosm of society,” said King, who founded the WSF. “Women are still so far behind.”

Megan Rapinoe, who won the Golden Boot and the Golden Ball with her World Cup champion team in July, told Reuters she hoped a settlement with U.S. Soccer was possible, but that she and her group were prepared for a fight.

U.S. Soccer has repeatedly defended its support for the women’s team in the past.

Reporting by Amy Tennery; Editing by Nick Macfie