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August 7, 2013
THE MODERATOR: Welcome to the 2013 Rogers Cup presented by National Bank. I just wanted to give a quick overview. We will have a brief introduction and welcome by Stacey Allaster who will then introduce Billie Jean, and then we will go through a Q&A session. Please raise your hand when we get to the Q&A and please state your name and affiliation prior to asking questions.
Without further ado, the WTA chairman and CEO, Stacey Allaster.
STACEY ALLASTER: Well, hello, everyone. Bienvenue. Always very special to come home to the Rogers Cup, but I don't think any moment could be more special than this, to come home with the great Billie Jean King.
It's the 40th anniversary of the WTA, the organization that she founded, an organization that I'm incredibly proud to now lead.
Billie has had an incredible year. There is a lot going on. It's the 40th anniversary of not only founding the WTA but ‑‑
BILLIE JEAN KING: It's the 40‑40‑40.
STACEY ALLASTER: Beating Bobby Riggs, establishing another women's sports foundation.
BILLIE JEAN KING: Equal prize money.
STACEY ALLASTER: Equal prize money at the US Open. She has a little special birthday.
BILLIE JEAN KING: Sorry for interrupting. You can tell we're friends.
STACEY ALLASTER: For me to dial her up and say, Billie, can you come along to Toronto, it took her a nanosecond to say yes. Why did she say yes? To support me.
Tonight we're here not only to celebrate 40 years of the WTA but something that Billie has done for her entire career, and that is the advancement and empowerment of women. She walks the talk that women need to support women.
And a few hours from now, together with Ursula Burns, chairman and CEO of Xerox, we will gather with 75 of Canada's top business leaders, predominantly most of them women, and together with Ursula, Billie and myself will talk about what we need to do, what I need to do, and what the generations to come need to do to continue the movement that you started when you beat Bobby Riggs in 1973.
It was, for me, what this 40th anniversary has really been about is to understand the journey. I thought I knew. I'm in tennis. I lead the organization that Billie Jean King founded. I'm with her. I hear the stories. There was a film, Battle of the Sexes, that was premiered in London, and that was probably‑‑ it is "the" most moving film I have ever watched because it crystallized for me what you did for myself, for my little girl, and for all women. You took the world on your shoulders, and it's just incredible.
Everyone says to me, you know, Can you believe that you are the chairman and CEO of the WTA? And I cannot, and I cannot believe that today I say sit here in the Rexall Centre at the Rogers Cup where everything started and you're here with me.
Thank you for coming.
BILLIE JEAN KING: Thank you for having me. That's really special.
How many women are in the government here? What's the percentage? I meant to look that up before I got here. Do you know what it is?
STACEY ALLASTER: We do have a female premier in this province, which is a big deal.
Q. And gay.
BILLIE JEAN KING: And gay? Whoa, took off two of the marks there.
Q. We have a female, used to have a female prime minister.
STACEY ALLASTER: For a short stint though.
BILLIE JEAN KING: We haven't had a woman president in the U.S., that's for sure. It's pathetic.
STACEY ALLASTER: Do we have one in BC?
Q. There's more women than men now.
BILLIE JEAN KING: Actually my life is about equal opportunities for boys and girls, but women are so far behind, so it's taken up more of my time. I grew up with a younger brother, Randy Moffitt. His last year he played Major League Baseball was with the Blue Jays. He was a relief pitcher.
And most of his career he played with the SanFrancisco Giants. He loves it here. First of all, it was the first team he played on that could actually hit, and he could make a mistake and they could still win. Because the Giants used to win like 1‑0 or 2‑1, and he said when he came up here he could not believe it. The guys on the team would say, Hey, don't worry, Moffitt. We'll get you a couple of runs next inning. He's like, Oh, sure. Because he never experienced it.
And sure enough, they'd get a couple of hits. He'd go, Oh, I can actually breathe to go back out on the pitching mound to try to win the game for the team. He absolutely loved it.
He doesn't like the heat and we don't like the heat. Canada is perfect for us. I used to come to Montreal in January, and it never got above ‑6 Fahrenheit. I was fine. I loved it. Brought my dog up here. Lucy loved the snow. It was great.
It's such an honor to be here, and I look forward to our session with all the business leaders, particularly the women. Ursula, what a great example of being such a leader in women's business and business, but as a woman leader.
These are the things that are very important, because I'm a big believer you have to see it to be it.
I was thinking about your life and your journey in that a big part of it was here. This was really a steppingstone to where you are now.
STACEY ALLASTER: No question.
BILLIE JEAN KING: I just, I don't know, it's wonderful to be here. And I was just thinking about your life and how it progressed to become our leader of the WTA and how important it is. Of course Stacey has done such a great job just getting Singapore for the next five years and being in Turkey, and then before that was in Qatar.
And I was able to go to Doha and experience it. I felt like I was in Palm Springs as far as the weather. Otherwise I knew it wasn't in Palm Springs like when the women‑‑ I couldn't see them (demonstrating with hands covering face).
We have a long way to go, but I think women's tennis is such a great leader not only in women's sports but for all women globally. As I said, to see it is to be it. We are out there, and children, both boys and girls, are seeing it.
They will think it's normal. If you're a child and you see something, you'll think it's normal, and that's what you want for young people. You have to remember that 95% of the media has been controlled by men, and so we have learned to see the world through men's eyes, both men and women.
I know in the United States it's shocking how bad it is as far as we're not even at 20% in congress, which is pathetic, and I always think that the governments should reflect what the population looks like. I just think that's kind of healthy. We certainly do not have that in the United States. Canada is probably doing a lot better than we are in many ways.
I did my first ‑‑I remember it was either sixth or seventh grade, I can't remember what grade, I was trying to remember, but we had to do a report on another country. I chose Canada. I chose it for two reasons. I chose it because of the flag and the maple leaf. I love the shape of maple leaves. I just love it. I always did as a child as I was growing up. And that you are very different from us, but you are our neighbors, next‑door neighbors, and I wanted to know about Canadians.
So that was my first report I ever did, and I loved coloring the front page because I did the flag, you know, the maple leaf. I love the leaf with the red. I just loved it.
So when I came here and saw the flag today, it brought back memories of that, and of course Randy playing for the Blue Jays and also just having friends, you know. Relationships are everything, and just having friends like you or Bird Legs, Vicki Berner from Vancouver. She always used to say, and she still says, "the" most beautiful city in the world. I thought, whoops I'm in Toronto today. I better be careful. She was No. 1 in Canada at one time and still a dear friend.
There are so many ‑‑then I used to come here and work out in January trying to rehab from all my knee operations. JoAnne Taylor at St. Clair or whatever. Just all these wonderful memories. It was great.
THE MODERATOR: We're going to open the floor for questions.
BILLIE JEAN KING: You guys are so sweet today. Get a little rowdier.
Q. What do you say to young women who kind of cringe at the word "feminism" and to tennis players who say that the women's game and the women's tour is exactly where it should be and there are no more battles?
BILLIE JEAN KING: Boy, that's a really good question‑‑ questions. There are two there, really. First of all, I will tell you a story. When we used to play, my generation we would walk into the media area when we finally were getting media. That was a big deal to have you in a room like this. That's why I want to tell you how much I appreciate you, because in the '70s, without you, our stories weren't told. So I don't want you to give up on your job because things have changed, okay? You still tell the stories in a different way, I think, than if it just comes from the individual, tweeting or the sound bites or whatever.
I used to walk into a room, and there was never a woman sports writer, never. So it was all guys. I get along great with guys because of my brother, and my dad was a jock, I'm easy‑peasy.
So I go, Okay, before we start, I want each of you guys to tell me what you think a feminist means. What does feminism mean to you? You couldn't believe them. They go(indicating index finger on chin and staring at ceiling). They start thinking. I go, Okay, before we start, I just want to tell you what it means to me. It means equal rights for boys and girls. It's very simple. It means choice. That's it. That everybody should have the same opportunities, same rights, easy‑peasy.
I said, Okay, now we can start the press conference.
That answers the first one, because I think they need to understand it's not a bad word. It's actually a very strong, wonderful word. Many men are feminists too, by the way. People have a very negative connotation with that word. If you really look it up, all it is is about equality. It's simple.
The second part of the question, there is always more that we have to do. Even if things were perfect for both genders, we still want to make things better. There is a lot of the world that's not doing well. 70% of poverty is women, and women tennis players are an example. Equal prize money is the message, not the money. It's the message that we send through equal, that word "equal," prize money is ‑‑ that's the important thing. We're for both boys and girls.
So it's very important for women to do, to keep pushing forward, because it's important that young boys and girls see us as strong. We all have a right to be who we are, that we can do things really well, that we know how to compete, we know how to lead, we know how to have the passion every day, the fire in the belly just like the guys every day.
We're human beings, both the boys and girls, and we both have emotions. Like I was telling the ticket holders‑‑ I was just there with the premium ticket holders before I came here, and, you know, it's so important that we're all in this world together, that we work together.
So, anyway, does that answer your question? Because I get ‑‑you got me all fired up. Talk about fire in the belly.
Q. Tomorrow here some first‑round losers from the men's tournament in Montreal are coming here to play in an apparent attempt to boost some audiences here.
BILLIE JEAN KING: What? I don't understand that. They are having men come here? A crossover or something here this year that I don't know about?
STACEY ALLASTER: I think I need someone from Tennis Canada to answer that.
Q. Exhibition matches between men that were first‑round losers in Montreal, and they're coming here. I wonder what you think about that bringing men to the women's tournaments.
BILLIE JEAN KING: I don't think it matters. I don't know what their purpose is. I think they probably want both genders to have a chance to see themselves. I would.
Are we having any of the women go up there?
BILLIE JEAN KING: That's the question I would have asked.
Q. Do you think the idea is to boost ticket sales?
BILLIE JEAN KING: Well, if the men do boost them right now, I will say ‑‑
THE MODERATOR: For next year, for their tournament next year.
BILLIE JEAN KING: Just to kind of preview, to remind them?
THE MODERATOR: Tickets go on sale.
BILLIE JEAN KING: Oh, that answers that. Why aren't the girls up there?
Q. They're not up there.
STACEY ALLASTER: That's a question for Tennis Canada. I think always here, particularly in Toronto, it's a challenging market. And concerts, exhibition matches, had the exhibition Monday night with Monica and Serena, Venus and Genie Bouchard, so this tournament, even under my leadership, always was looking at pushing the envelope to make this a real sport entertainment extravaganza.
BILLIE JEAN KING: Do you think Toronto is a more difficult market than Montreal?
STACEY ALLASTER: It's a much more difficult market than Montreal.
BILLIE JEAN KING: Maybe that answers that. I don't know.
STACEY ALLASTER: We always had crowds, particularly in the earlier rounds in Montreal, harder here in Toronto. It's just that the market that we are in. It sells on the superstars.
I think Tennis Canada, at the end of the day, what is this event about? It's about generating money for the development of the sport. Promoters need to embrace all of that. I support Tennis Canada in doing everything they can to make as much money for the next Milos, the next Genie Bouchard, and for the next young boy or girl that dreams of representing this country.
I think ultimately that's what it's about. I wouldn't get too fussed about it.
BILLIE JEAN KING: Also, sports are a microcosm of society. We have a long way to go, women. We just do. Tennis goes in cycles like everything else.
STACEY ALLASTER: Sure.
BILLIE JEAN KING: I can remember when the men weren't doing so hot, and right now they are in a golden moment. Believe me, that moment will pass also. Right now ‑‑ they have never had four guys like they have now, ever. That's a fact.
When we used to have Chris Evert and Martina playing against each other, it was unbelievable. You go through these periods of ups and downs, but the important thing is to support each other.
Because, as Stacey said, it's about the Canadian situation. It's about Tennis Canada providing opportunities for both genders, for both boys and girls.
It's really important that we work together and that we champion each other not by gender but by the human‑‑ it's human rights. It's about helping each other, because we are in this world together.
So I think it's fantastic that you can actually support two cities. The way you do it is phenomenal. I think you're the only one in the world ‑‑
STACEY ALLASTER: Only one in the world.
BILLIE JEAN KING: I think it's phenomenal that you have two markets that have it. I don't have the history that Stacey has. You had a much better answer, because I don't know ‑‑my understanding is Tennis Canada, to your point, was just ‑‑all this money goes back out to grassroots tennis. You always want a critical mass of kids playing in a country.
Of course you have to deal with ice hockey and what grabs the attention. How many girls play ice hockey here? A lot?
STACEY ALLASTER: A lot.
BILLIE JEAN KING: A lot? Compared to boys, how many? What's the percentage? I don't have a clue. I want to ask you guys that, because I figured you would know that since ‑‑do you know? Any idea what the percentages are?
Q. Last few years it's about 30, 35%.
STACEY ALLASTER: Of girls, yeah.
BILLIE JEAN KING: That's a beginning.
Q. And 25 years ago it was about 10 to 15%.
BILLIE JEAN KING: It's getting better. But until girls have the same opportunities that boys do in sports or any other field of endeavor ‑‑the biggest difference I find in sports, anyway, and I think it's shifting in business, and of course we will probably touch on it today, is that the resources available to men's sports compared to women's sports is just night and day, okay? Men are willing to spend billions of dollars and lose billions of dollars, long‑term thinking, on men's sports.
Here's what happens with women's. Let's say you start a soccer league. If the women don't make money in two years, the guys say, See, they're not making any money. But no one ever says to them, How much money are the guys making? Do you think our Major League Soccer ‑‑
STACEY ALLASTER: MLS, uh‑huh.
BILLIE JEAN KING: The Andusz (phonetic) family was willing to go for 30 years to invest. I have never seen anyone in women's sports really say, We're going to invest, I don't care what it takes for the next 10, 20, 30 years, we're going to put X on the map.
I have never heard that about women's sports. For men's sports, I hear it all the time. That is discrimination. That's just the way it is. That's the world I lived in as a girl, as a woman, growing up.
She said ‑‑she's so sweet. I have a special birthday. I'm going to be 70 this year. I don't care about birthdays. You know how girls are taught not to tell anybody? That's bologna. Just tell everybody. Who cares? God, we get hung up on all the wrong things in life. Golly. Come on. I'm going to be 7‑0, and I love it. It's the 40‑ 40‑ 40‑70. Yeah. I don't care. I'm glad I made it to 70. That's the privilege.
Q. When you played there were no age restrictions, and we typically saw ‑‑
BILLIE JEAN KING: They kind of started when I was playing.
Q. We still saw players typically burn out early in their careers. The WTA has made steps in really bringing along younger players a little slower. Now we're seeing Serena, Venus, a lot of older players find success as their careers lengthen. What can you say about that development in terms of the health of the WTA?
BILLIE JEAN KING: I think it's good because we want to prevent injuries, and also it gives the players time to learn how to take care of themselves, to better take care of themselves.
I mean, I can remember trying to take some of the players when I was around to the training room, you know, to the physio room. They didn't want to do it. I'm like, Oh, no, this is the first thing you're going to learn. You're going to hit this place every day. You're going to make sure you know what's going on.
The WTA measures their muscle groups, tries to give them a program to work out, how to take care of themselves. That's a huge part of lasting long enough to make a good living. It's really practical. Our time frame is short.
Also, each player is different, and with the power in the game today, people are developing later. They have to be stronger. They have to be more physically settled. So that's the reason you're seeing them come into their prime now and now in their mid‑20s, and that used to be we could have a champion at 16 and 17. It doesn't happen now because of the power and how long it takes to develop.
I mean, I'm sure most of you read outliers about your hockey players born in January, February, March, your ice hockey players, right? Well, you know, the 10,000 balls? You said you have to hit 10,000 balls? 10,000 hours or whatever? We had this saying in tennis that I can remember as a child is that you have to play at least 10 years to be a champion. When I read that 10,000 hours I said, 10 years, it's the same thing.
I have been hearing that since I was a baby. And it's true. Tracy Austin was really good at 16, but she also was playing at 2 years old. She already ‑‑she had her 10 years by the time she was 16. She had more. She had 13, 14 years.
STACEY ALLASTER: We lost her early.
BILLIE JEAN KING: It takes a long time to be great. That's if God gave you the potential in the first place. So it takes a long time.
STACEY ALLASTER: I'll just add when we brought in the age eligibility rule about 17 years ago, I think, we have been able to extend the career‑longevity of these athletes from an average of 12 years to 15.
BILLIE JEAN KING: Really? That's good to know.
STACEY ALLASTER: I will take 15 years of an athlete any day over moments of greatness and a shorter career.
BILLIE JEAN KING: I agree. I got to play until I was 40. I retired at 40. I'm glad.
You see, I think it's important to have a full lifetime in your career. You know, I was taught to go out on top. I did. It was a mistake. It's one of my mistakes. I still could beat Chris and Martina in 1976, and I should have played at least one more year of singles. But I got hooked into, Oh, you have to end up on top and I won Wimbledon in '75, this is a great time to quit. What am I doing? I love to play. Stupido.
I remember talking to Chris and Martina, other players, men and women, with that next phase, you know, at the end, you know, when should I quit? Quit when you're ready if your body allows you to quit when you're ready, mentally and emotionally. It's amazing.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you so much.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports