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The Obamas attended the US Open and the former first lady spoke in honor of Billie Jean King

Former President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, were in the Arthur Ashe Stadium stands to watch Coco Gauff’s first-round victory at the U.S. Open

Via AP news wire
Tuesday 29 August 2023 04:26 BST

Former President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, were in the Arthur Ashe Stadium stands to watch Coco Gauff's first-round victory at the U.S. Open on Monday night.

After that match, Michelle Obama went down on the court to participate in a tribute to Billie Jean King marking the 50th anniversary of the U.S. Open becoming the first Grand Slam tennis tournament to pay equal prize money to women.

"Billie Jean teaches us that when things lie in the balance, we all have a choice to make. We can either wait around and accept what we’re given. We can sit silently and hope someone else fights our battles. Or we can make our own stand,” the former first lady said during the ceremony between Gauff’s match and 23-time Grand Slam champion Novak Djokovic’s contest that was to follow next in Ashe. “We can use whatever platforms we have to speak out and fight to protect the progress we’ve made, and level the playing field for all of our daughters and their daughters.”

In 1972, when King won the U.S. Open, she earned $10,000 for her title, $15,000 less than what the men's champion earned. She threatened to not play at all the next year — and added that no other women would, either.

King then helped recruit a sponsor that stepped in and helped make up the difference in 1973, so the two singles champions were paid the same amount: $25,000. It wasn't until more than 30 years later that Wimbledon became the last major tennis tournament to pay its singles champions equally.

“Even today, there are far too many tournaments out there that still need to give equal pay to women. ... Let us remember all of this is far bigger than a champion's paycheck," Michelle Obama said Monday night. "This is about how women are seen and valued in this world.”

She also was at Flushing Meadows last year, when she saw American Frances Tiafoe play during his run to the semifinals.

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AP tennis: https://apnews.com/hub/tennis

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