LOS ANGELES -- The baseball franchise that blazed diverse trails with Jackie Robinson, Sandy Koufax, Fernando Valenzuela and Hideo Nomo, among many others, took another bold step into inclusion by bringing tennis legend Billie Jean King and her partner, Ilana Kloss, into Dodgers ownership."We are most proud of the Dodgers'
LOS ANGELES -- The baseball franchise that blazed diverse trails with Jackie Robinson, Sandy Koufax, Fernando Valenzuela and Hideo Nomo, among many others, took another bold step into inclusion by bringing tennis legend Billie Jean King and her partner, Ilana Kloss, into Dodgers ownership.
"We are most proud of the Dodgers' place in society," said club CEO Stan Kasten during a Friday introduction. "No franchise has had the impact on society at large or popular culture as the Dodgers. That's why we are so proud to make this announcement today."
King explained that she developed a friendship with Walter's wife, Kimbra, during fundraising efforts in Chicago. Conversations with Mark Walter about the growth of various sports evolved into an invitation to join ownership for tennis Hall of Famer King, a Long Beach native, and Klass, a former U.S. Open doubles champion from South Africa. King and Kloss have been instrumental in the founding and operation of World Team Tennis.
"They built a tennis league and teams, they understand what we do here every day," said Mark Walter. "Both have made a major impact on society and we're looking forward to having them help us to make the Dodgers better."
King and Kloss hope to be approved for a similar ownership role with the WNBA Sparks, which is also owned by Walter and several of his Dodgers partners.
"As a woman, there aren't many women in C-Suites, but 95 percent of women in C Suites identify with being an athlete," King said. "They've proven through data that if you have inclusion in your company, it actually goes to the bottom line. You make more money.
"I also think it sounds a very strong message. You always want to be hospitable in your relationships with other people. The Dodgers stand for something bigger than themselves."
Kloss echoed the importance of inclusion.
"This is a privilege and an honor and we're excited about not only doing well, but doing good," she said. "It's great to have your opinion valued and to be respected."
Walter was asked about a Dodgers culture of decency and respect.
"You're not going to have a good place for people to be, for my daughter to be around, if you don't have fairness, equality, inclusion, no-violence, and you can go on and on," said Walter. "You do have to make decisions and take that into account. I think we try to do that."
King, whose brother, Randy Moffitt, was a pitcher for the Giants, recalled her father reading box scores of Pacific Coast League games until the Dodgers arrived in Los Angeles in 1958, when she was 14.
"I have baseball in my blood," she said.
Dodgers infielder Chase Utley attended Friday's press conference at King's request. They attended the same Southern California junior and senior high schools.
Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers for MLB.com since 2001.