Don Van Natta’s recently published an ESPN piece The Match Maker that asserts (with very thin evidence) that Bobby Riggs threw his match against Billie Jean King to collect $100,000 to pay off a fictitious Mob debt alleged by a 79 year-old man named Hal Shaw who eavesdropped on some mobsters. My first reaction to Van Natta, who interviewed me while preparing his piece, was “FOLLOW THE MONEY! Bobby had no financial incentive to throw the match.”
It may have been easier for me to come to the conclusion that Bobby Riggs didn’t need the money because I have possession of his tax returns for many years, including 1973. (I wrote about this in a previous blog post)
Then, I read an article by Kate Dries.
Who Cares If Bobby Riggs Let Billie Jean King Win?
Ms. Dries gets exactly right in her response to Van Natta. Billie Jean King has spent her life advocating for gender equality. She started advocating for equal pay for women’s sporting events, and she was a powerful advocate for Title IX legislation.
Men and women are in this world together, and sometimes in work and tennis, the women will be in the leadership role and other times, they are in the supportive role, just like the guys. I think it’s very important for young people…to see this cooperation and this equality happening right in front of them on a level playing field.”
Billie Jean King