Tennis Prose



Billie Jean King Claims Ashe Reversed Stance On Equal Pay, But There Is No Proof

In her new book “All In”, Billie Jean King claims Arthur Ashe reversed his stance on equal pay for men and women after he had a daughter (adopted daughter Camera born in 1986).

Ashe was vehemently against equal pay for men and women tennis players, as he made abundantly clear in a 1980 interview on The Dick Cavett Show.

King claims she later changed Ashe’s mind on the issue however there is no documented proof of Ashe speaking in support of equal prize money.

In Ashe’s book “Days of Grace”, published in 1995, two years after he passed away on Feb. 6, 1993, King actually wrote a six-page introduction foreword about her adored memories and strong feelings for Ashe in the book. King did not mention anything about Ashe’s position of being against equal prize money – or that she privately managed to convince him to switch over to supporting equal prize money for women.

Google searches on the matter also failed to locate any press interviews or statements of Ashe discussing King converting him from being against to supporting equal prize money, after he adopted daughter Camera.

So one has to wonder: Did Billie Jean King fabricate a fake news false story that she convinced Arthur Ashe to support equal prize money? Does any proof exist about it, other than King’s word?

Here is what Ashe said on the 1980 Dick Cavett Show:

 “We’ve come to realize, like other sports, our appeal (as tennis players) is about 70 percent entertainment and 30 percent sport,” said Ashe on the 1980 telecast in a New York City studio. “And as such, the amount of money that we make or we can command in prize money, is directly related to our box office appeal. What I said was that women don’t deserve the same amount of prize money as men. They don’t. We are not out there making car doors for Ford Motor Company. One example that I like to use is let’s suppose that Caesars Palace (in Las Vegas) was going to have The Carpenters (perform a concert) one week and Frank Sinatra the next week. Now would you pay Frank Sinatra the same that you would pay The Carpenters? Obviously not. You’d pay Frank quite a bit more than you’d pay The Carpenters. For the exact same number of hours.”

“All I was saying was that the caliber or quality of matches put on by a draw of 128 women, in no way, right now in the Fall of 1980, equals the appeal of a draw of the best 128 men. One day the women might command more. But right now it’s not the same. But at the top, there’s no question that Chrissie or Tracy Austin, they are just as powerful as a Borg or a McEnroe. But, unfortunately, in the first round of 64 matches, the top women usually win those matches very easily. Chrissie Evert seldom loses more than two games a set before she gets to the quarterfinal. But it’s almost assuredly one of the sixteen seeds in the men’s will lose in the first or second round.”

Ashe revealed that King confronted him about his equal prize money opinions. “Billie Jean…she got on me,” said Ashe. “She said, ‘How can you do that? After all I supported you through the civil rights days. You let me down.’ I said, ‘Billie Jean, it’s apples and oranges. We’re not talking about the same thing. I would support you whole-heartedly if you were striking Ford Motor Company because they didn’t pay you the same as the pay a man for doing the same job. But this is entertainment. This is not a job like most other people have. It’s whatever you can bargain for.’”

It does not make sense that if Ashe reversed his strong beliefs about equal prize money that he would not speak about it publicly and passionately, like he did on the Cavett Show.

Billie Jean King needs to provide detailed evidence to support her claims Ashe reversed his opinion, otherwise it may be possible King fabricated the anecdote for political advantage and agenda pushing.

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  • Ken Brown · August 18, 2021 at 2:49 pm

    BJK does not need to prove anything. She is an honorable person just like Ashe. She is the most important figure in women’s rights because she put the dollar bill in a woman’s pocket.

  • Scoop Malinowski · August 18, 2021 at 10:54 pm

    Ken, There is no documented proof Ashe changed his belief on equal prize money for tennis players. If King fabricated that tale, she’s a liar.

  • George Dieffenbach · August 20, 2021 at 11:08 pm

    It’s good you are getting this out there for healthy discussion. BJK is a great champion and was and still is a pioneer. I respect her a lot. I knew Arthur, and his impact on sport and society, like King’s, was vast. Both great people. I am curious your stance in grand slam events on men playing best of 5 and the women playing best of 3.

  • Scoop Malinowski · August 21, 2021 at 8:16 am

    George, I agree both Ashe and King were great champions and big legends of the sport and though King and Ashe are prominently tributed at the US Open, I believe Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe had more of an impact on the growth of the sport and attracting fans and excitement and they deserve a stadium named in their honor too. Men and women are not created physically equal – if they were the atp and wta would be combined into one tour – so there is no reason to make women play best of 5 at majors. Best of three is enough. I did an unofficial poll asking fans at US Open who they preferred to watch men or women and the majority answered men though I was surprised more than a few men said they preferred women’s tennis.

  • Douglas Day · August 22, 2021 at 9:27 am

    Now that Serena is over the hill BJK’s woke campaign demonizing others as sexist racist homophobes needed a dose of revisionist history. Great job Scoop.

  • Scoop Malinowski · August 22, 2021 at 10:18 am

    Thanks Doug. Not sure if Serena is finished. I can see her getting some freebie wins at the US Open all the way to the final, with opponents booking flights out of NY BEFORE the match, as Svitolina revealed after her lackluster loss to Serena a couple of years ago at US Open. Serena in the final will do much bigger tv ratings and sponsor revenues than Sabalenka, Kerber or Svitolina etc. Maybe King deserves one big fat lie on credit do to her legacy and legend? No. One lie can do a lot of damage. The public deserves the truth, not fake news. We get enough of that.

  • Sam · August 22, 2021 at 12:41 pm

    As for five sets instead of three for women, it’s true that men and women aren’t created equally. But women can run marathons, so why should “best of five” pose that much of a problem for them? 🤔 I remember that, in the ’90s, some WTA finals were “best of five.” But since women’s tennis has traditionally been “best of three,” changing the format makes little sense. However, because the men have to put in more hours on the court on average, I’m not so sure there should be equal prize money in the Grand Slams.

    I actually used to prefer women’s tennis too, but now that it’s such a joke, I just don’t pay it much attention. 😉

    As for Serena, yes, he’s done winning Slams. Even when the tournament organizers try to cheat for him, he still can’t go all the way!! 😆

  • Scoop Malinowski · August 22, 2021 at 1:24 pm

    Sam, maybe the WTA organizers know 3 out of 5 is too much tennis for tennis fans, and monotonous baseline rallies for four hours will lose fans, sponsors and goodwill. Keep it short and sweet, make him want to see more. I don’t know a single human being who could sit through Carla Saurez Navarro vs Jessica Pegular for five sets. I don’t even think Billie Jean King could sit through all of that. 🙂

    Serena’s only shot to win the US Open is a total rig job, all seven matches. I don’t mind if she wins on her own effort, fitness and merit but not by manipulation.



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