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Billie Jean King says claims that Battle of the Sexes was fixed are ‘ridiculous’

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Billie Jean King strongly refuted a report that suggested Bobby Riggs lost his "Battle of the Sexes" match with her on purpose. (AP)

Billie Jean King strongly refuted a report that suggested Bobby Riggs lost his “Battle of the Sexes” match with her on purpose. (AP)

NEW YORK — Billie Jean King has hit back at claims made in an ESPN report that her historic 1973 match against Bobby Riggs, known as “The Battle of the Sexes,” was fixed.

In the report, which aired Sunday on Outside the Lines, Hank Shaw, who served as an assistant golf pro in Tampa, Fla., 40 years ago, told ESPN that he overheard well-connected members of the mafia discussing a plan for Riggs to tank the match in order to satisfy a gambling debt. Shaw said he’s decided to come forward to get the story off his chest.

You can watch the full ESPN report here:

“This story is just ridiculous,” King said in a statement. “I was on the court with Bobby and I know he was not tanking the match. I could see in his eyes and body language he wanted to win. People need to accept he had a bad day at the office — just as Margaret Court did when she played Bobby. It was 40 years ago and I won the match and I am 100% sure Bobby wanted to win as badly as I did. Those who bet against me lost money, but the result is the same today as it was 40 years ago.”

Venus Williams was asked about the report after her first-round win over Kirsten Flipkens at the U.S. Open. She was unaware of the ESPN story but did not take kindly to the insinuation that King didn’t win the match fair and square. With a slight edge in her voice she dismissed the idea of a match fix.

“I would seriously doubt that,” Williams said.

  • Published On Aug 26, 2013
  • 24 comments
    John4
    John4

    Battle of the Sexes rigged?  Of course it was rigged.  If not, BJK should have played someone approximately her own age.  What did she do?  Play (and win) vs. a geriatric.  Don't tennis players retire when they're mid 30 at the latest?  Yes, they do.  How old was Riggs when the Battle of the Sexes occcurred?  Well, he was born in 1918 so he was 55 in 1973.  How old was BJK?  Born in Nov 1955, she was 29 when the match occured.  You mean a top woman's player (in her prime) can beat a 55 year old man in tennis?  Really? 

    WHO*IS*ESPN
    WHO*IS*ESPN

    But it didn't matter she could play the doubles lines while he the singles didn't mean anything for being "fair"?.  What a joke this was and I saw it.  That would be like Jack playing Tiger NOW....from the back tees

    Joebuckster
    Joebuckster

    Quite frankly, it's the only explanation that makes any sense. Journeyman professional male athletes would thrash the top females in any sport, at any time - period. That's why they play separately, isn't it. When women seriously think they can compete with men, they're welcome to try. Would be good for a laugh, I'm sure...

    Wisconsin Death Trip
    Wisconsin Death Trip

    I played tennis in high school (was actually very good, but joined the military out of school instead of college) and beyond.......for decades that is. I watched this match with my parents, and by the halfway point we stopped watching because it looked like Riggs didn't even care to be there, he played that bad. I watched this docu-rama by ESPN, and thought to myself "OMG, this looks even more obvious now than it did then!!"

    tfaw
    tfaw

    venus williams is likely confused about her alliances.  her DNA sides with Riggs but her on court persona would side with King... 

    Michael22
    Michael22

    He may have gone in thinking he would throw it, but even if that was the plan going in, when the match started King was way better, he was old and out of shape, and he was thoroughly embarrassed. If he was going to lose, did he plan to have to chase balls all around the court and get run to exhaustion? I assume he would just hit some returns into the net instead of getting rolled, maybe take a set or two to keep it interesting from a fan standpoint. 

    Then again, if Serena played Connors today, I'm sure she would pummel him as well, as just about any top player in her prime vs a 55 year old man. The match was rigged in the sense of age, not effort.

    Irish189
    Irish189

    Heres the thing, at this stage, why does it matter?

    Even if its true and Riggs threw the match, what changes? The only difference is maybe King's pride gets hurt a little bit. it doesn't take away from all the achievements women have made in tennis and society over the last 40 years. 

    MichaelC
    MichaelC

    Eyes ... body language ... c'mon Billie Jean, it's all plausible right? It doesn't take much effort for someone to PRETEND.

    mystafugee
    mystafugee

    @Joebuckster Yeah, better to point to some unsubstantiated conspiracy theory then just admit you were cr@p on that day.  Works for the Seattle Seahawks.  

    mystafugee
    mystafugee

    @Wisconsin Death Trip I saw those Notre Dame players looking like they didn't even care to be there by the end of the first quarter in last season's BCS title game.  Does that mean they threw it?  

    duckfan59
    duckfan59

    @Wisconsin Death Trip I think his performance probably had more to do with his age than any plan to throw the match. He was 55 and playing the #1 woman player in the world in her prime.

    You certainly subscribe to conspiracy theories very easily. Let me guess, JFK was assassinated by the mafia, the moon landing was faked and 9/11 was an inside job.

    mnico213
    mnico213

    @Michael22 So the match was rigged in sense of age, even though he had just beat Margaret Court who was the same age and the #1 player in the world?

    John4
    John4

    @mystafugee Actually, Riggs would have had to admit that at 55 he no longer could play like someone 26 years younger than him!

    mnico213
    mnico213

    @duckfan59 @Wisconsin Death Trip Wasn't he playing the #2 player in the world after just thrashing the #1 player in the world who was also young and in her prime?  

    And the fact that you would compare someone throwing a tennis match for money to any of the other thing you listed shows your lack of common sense not Wisconsin Death Trip.  I don't know if it happened or not, but it wouldn't be a particularly difficult thing to do and has happened numerous times in sports.

    duckfan59
    duckfan59

    @Joebuckster @mnico213 @duckfan59 @Wisconsin Death Trip Mnico213 and Joebuckster: Nice that you were both able to psycho analyze me and thoroughly figure out everything about me based on one statement. Good job.
    I am neither naive or lack common sense. I was commenting on Wisconsin's statement that "looking back at it now it seems so obvious." Well, once the seed is planted I guess people see what they want to see.
    But thanks for playing our game and have a nice day. We have some wonderful parting gifts for you.

    Joebuckster
    Joebuckster

    @mnico213 @duckfan59 @Wisconsin Death Trip Just goes to show you how delusional King, and obviously many others to this day, still are. According to "DuckFan59" (apparently there are at least 58 other fans of 'ducks') we should all take everything that happens in the world at face value. It must be wonderful to live so naively...