Press Release

Gillibrand, Capito, Sinema Announce Senate Passage Of Bill To Award Billie Jean King The Congressional Gold Medal

May 15, 2024

Today, U.S. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ) announced that the Senate unanimously passed their bipartisan legislation to award the Congressional Gold Medal to tennis legend and American icon Billie Jean King. The medal will be awarded in recognition of Billie Jean King’s groundbreaking leadership throughout her life and career in advancing equal rights for women in athletics, education and society at large. King was instrumental in securing equal prize money in men’s and women’s tennis at the U.S. Open, spearheaded the formation of the Women’s Tennis Association and brought worldwide attention to pay equality throughout her career and in her “Battle of the Sexes” match against Bobby Riggs. 

“Billie Jean King is a living legend, a trailblazing icon whose success on the tennis court is matched by her pioneering work for gender equality off it,” said Senator Gillibrand. “No one could be more fitting to receive the first Congressional Gold Medal awarded to an individual woman athlete than Billie Jean King. Now that this bill has passed the Senate, I will be working alongside our bipartisan House partners to get it signed into law.”

“It would be hard to think of someone who has done more to advance women and girls in sports than Billie Jean King,” Senator Capito said. “Billie Jean King has been an inspiration for female athletes and to sports fans around the world— not only for her incredible talent on the tennis court but also for her determination in fighting for women to receive equal pay. I’m thrilled to see our legislation to award her the Congressional Gold Medal for her efforts pass the Senate unanimously, and I hope my House colleagues will do the same and pass this legislation to honor this legendary pioneer in sports.”

“A fierce athlete and advocate, Billie Jean King shattered barriers and opened doors for countless women and girls. I’m proud the Senate came together to pass our bill awarding her the Congressional Gold Medal – I look forward to it becoming law,” said Senator Sinema.

“We are incredibly excited that the Senate has passed the bill to award Billie Jean King the Congressional Gold Medal, which represents a significant milestone in the efforts to recognize her with this distinction,” said Dr. Brian Hainline, USTA Chairman of the Board and President. “We would like to especially thank Senators Gillibrand, Capito and Sinema for their leadership in support of the bill in recognition of Billie’s lifelong work to advance equal rights for women in all areas of life. We hope that the House will now follow their lead, and make Billie Jean King the first individual female athlete to be awarded with this tremendous honor.”

Since the American Revolution, Congress has commissioned gold medals as its highest expression of national appreciation for distinguished achievements and contributions to society. To date, an individual woman athlete has never received the Congressional Gold Medal. Previous athletes who have received the Congressional Gold Medal include Jackie Robinson, Jesse Owens, Roberto Clemente, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Byron Nelson, Willie O’Ree, Greg LeMond, Larry Doby, Joe Louis and the 1980 Summer Olympic team.

The legislation is endorsed by the United States Tennis Association. 

The House companion bill is led by Representatives Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) and Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ).