LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers' ownership group on Thursday announced the addition of social activists, tennis champions and longtime partners Billie Jean King and Ilana Kloss, with an introductory news conference scheduled for Friday.Named one of the "100 Most Important Americans of the 20th Century" by Life Magazine and a
LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers' ownership group on Thursday announced the addition of social activists, tennis champions and longtime partners Billie Jean King and Ilana Kloss, with an introductory news conference scheduled for Friday.
Named one of the "100 Most Important Americans of the 20th Century" by Life Magazine and a 2009 recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, King was elected to the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1987 after a professional career in which she won 39 Grand Slam singles, doubles and mixed doubles titles, including a record 20 Wimbledon championships. In 2006, she became the first woman to have a major sports venue named in her honor when The USTA National Tennis Center in Flushing, N.Y., was rededicated as the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in recognition of her accomplishments on and off the court.
She was also the subject of Fox Searchlight's critically acclaimed 2017 film "Battle of the Sexes," which depicts the cultural and social impact of her groundbreaking match against Bobby Riggs at the Houston Astrodome in September 1973. She also founded the Women's Tennis Association and is a past member of the President's Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition.
"As someone born, raised and educated in Southern California, it is an honor to be part of the Dodger ownership group," King said. "Mark Walter and the entire Dodger organization are a first-class operation that have proven to be leaders in sports on and off the field of play. We share a commitment to equality and inclusion, including the LGBTQ community, and we hope to further expand the team's efforts in those areas as we move forward together."
Kloss is the president of Billie Jean Enterprises and the former CEO and Commissioner of World TeamTennis, managing both the professional sports league and the nationwide grassroots recreational programs. A former No. 1 doubles player and U.S. Open doubles champion, Kloss is a member of both the National and International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame. Kloss, a native of South Africa, serves on the executive board of the Tennis Industry Association and was named the Sports Businesswoman of the Year by the Warsaw Sports Marketing Center in 2007.
"I have been fortunate to work closely with Mark and Kimbra Walter on some projects, and I'm looking forward to being part of the Dodgers' ownership group and helping the team expand its reach with new audiences," Kloss added. "I hope to work with the team at a variety of levels and I share the organization's proven commitment to excellence on the field and in the community."
Mark Walter, the Dodgers' owner and chairman, called King and Kloss "trailblazing athletes, social advocates and businesswomen."
"Just like Billie Jean and Ilana, the Dodger franchise has a history of and commitment to breaking barriers, inclusion and winning, and we're looking forward to them continuing to promote these attributes within our organization," Walter said.
Commissioner of Baseball Rob Manfred lauded the pair for their social leadership.
"Major League Baseball is pleased to welcome Billie Jean King and her partner, Ilana Kloss, to the Los Angeles Dodgers' ownership group," Manfred said. "Billie Jean King is a true American trailblazer who has tirelessly championed for gender pay equality, LGBTQ rights and diverse, inclusive workforce leadership. Through her groundbreaking efforts, she has earned some of the most highly regarded recognitions available to athletes and advocates. Ilana Kloss is well-known for being both a professional tennis player and for her work as the chief executive officer and commissioner of World TeamTennis. We are excited to have them both join the National Pastime."
King and Kloss co-founded the Billie Jean King Leadership Initiative, which addresses inclusion and diversity issues in the workplace. The couple are also founding board members of the Elton John AIDS Foundation, and both serve on the executive committee of the Women's Sports Foundation (WSF). Founded by King in 1974, WSF works to advance the lives of girls and women through sports and physical activity, and it has awarded more than $80 million in educational and cash grants since its inception. King and Kloss have also been longtime owners in World TeamTennis at both the league and team levels.
King's Los Angeles and baseball ties date to her childhood in Long Beach, where she grew up playing youth basketball and softball before taking up tennis at age 11. She graduated from Long Beach Polytechnic High School and attended California State University, Los Angeles, from 1961-64. King's younger brother, Randy Moffitt, pitched in 12 Major League seasons with the Giants, Astros and Blue Jays from 1972-83.
In addition to joining the Dodgers' ownership group, King and Kloss are also expected to join Mark Walter as a member of the WNBA's Los Angeles Sparks' ownership group, pending league approval.
Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers for MLB.com since 2001.