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Kathryn Kolbert (Director of the Athena Center for Leadership Studies & Athena Film Festival Co-Founder), Billie Jean King, and Melissa Silverstein (Women and Hollywood founder & Athena Film Festival Artistic Director / Co-Founder)
Billie Jean King Opened Athena Film Festival 2018
Billie Jean King opened the 2018 Athena Film Festival on February 22nd with a message of inclusion for both men and women. King, the subject of the film BATTLE OF THE SEXES, was the opening night featured film. The film is a true story about the 1973 tennis match between number one player Billie Jean King and former champ, also known as a serial hustler, Bobby Riggs.
The film was directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valarie Faris. King, in a panel discussion following the film, commented, "Directors got the tennis right. Don't think they get enough credit for getting the tennis right." King went on to say that often in tennis and sports movies in general, the sport is not depicted in it's true form. King was approached by several professional players who equally felt the play on screen was accurate.
King was raised by a firefighter Dad and a housewife Mom. She credits the family as being a team. Mom would shuffle her a tennis player and her brother a baseball player to and from practices, providing a quiet discipline and structure that allowed both her and her brother to thrive as athletes. "My mom would make my tennis dresses," King said with admiration for her mother's contribution to her success. During Billie Jean's early career, shorts were not allowed to be worn by women. Dad, a Long Beach firefighter, provided for the family financially and verbally was a strong advocate for both siblings. King credits her father as making a great impact on her and why she has a belief that equality for both men and women is important to recognize.
Billie Jean King referenced the time she was outed for being gay, before she herself had declared such understanding, as being damaging. "Never out people," King said. "Safety is important," she further stated.
Not being able to make the statement she was gay herself was a very traumatic experience to her personally. To this King added she felt "Millennials are the greatest generation" for they are not judgmental and are more open to the idea of different races, genders, and ideas. Billie Jean King relates to the millennial generation sharing their ideals since a young age, but had few peers who collaborated in her opinions. Many in her time hid their feelings or relationships out of fear, which is becoming less the case today.
Billie Jean King continues to advocate for the sport of women's tennis and the equality of men and women through her Billie Jean King Leadership Initiative. To learn more, read through here: https://www.billiejeanking.com.
The Athena Film Festival celebrates "Courageous and Audacious" women leaders and is held annually at Barnard College.