2023 US Open to celebrate 50 years of equal prize money

Fifty years ago, the US Open became the first sporting event in history to offer equal prize money for men and women competitors, and this anniversary will be the central theme of the 2023 US Open.

Over the next nine months, through the duration of the 2023 US Open and beyond, this campaign will be bolstered by a number of significant events and a multimedia campaign that will cross linear, digital and social media channels. The nine-month celebration begins today on Equal Pay Day in the United States.

The great Billie Jean King became the pioneer for equal prize money when she won the women’s singles title at the 1972 US Open and unequivocally demanded that the following year’s US Open pay men’s and women’s players equally. King’s ultimatum set the tone for a momentous year ahead, which first saw the formation of the Women’s Tennis Association. In 1973, men and women competing at the US Open played for total purses of $100,000, including a $25,000 payout to both the men’s and women’s singles champion.

After the 1973 US Open milestone of equal pay, King then defeated Bobby Riggs in the ‘Battle of the Sexes’ match at Houston’s iconic Astrodome, a match that helped to propel the women’s movement in both sports and in society, and still remains the most-watched tennis match ever.

“The USTA is incredibly proud to celebrate the 50th anniversary of awarding equal prize money at this year’s US Open, and to honor Billie Jean King’s efforts to make this a reality,” Brian Hainline, USTA Chairman of the Board and President, said. “No individual has done more to secure equality for female athletes than Billie Jean King. Her impact goes far beyond the tennis court, and there is no better time to celebrate her legacy than on the anniversary of this historic milestone.”

“It’s not just about the money, it’s about the message,” said Billie Jean King. “Every generation does have to fight for equality and freedom.”

Video: Billie Jean King reflects on fight for equal prize money

The USTA also is actively supporting the effort to have King’s myriad achievements recognized with a Congressional Gold Medal. Though 11 individual athletes have received the Congressional Gold Medal, none of those recipients has been a woman. The campaign to award the honor to King has begun, and efforts will be ongoing over the course of the year. The USTA will be partnering with the Women’s Sports Foundation (WSF), which was founded in 1974 by King to enable all girls and women to reach their potential in sport and life, who will support the Congressional Gold Medal campaign in a number of ways, including with their expertise in advocacy and collective impact, as well as their significant reach with athletes, leaders, entities and fans.

“Billie has rightfully received numerous honors and accolades in her life,” Stacey Allaster, Chief Executive, Professional Tennis, USTA and US Open Tournament Director, said. “But the time has come for our nation to recognize her achievements with the Congressional Gold Medal for the wide-ranging positive impact these achievements have had on generations of women, men, girls, and boys of all backgrounds, making our country a better place.”

The 2023 US Open theme art also will be tied to the celebration. The artwork, created by Brazilian artist Camila Pinheiro, is a bold and contemporary spin on King's iconic image, while capturing the power and excitement of the US Open in a dramatic fashion. The US Open theme art is featured across all areas of promotion and activation, including on US Open broadcasts, through a robust merchandise offering, US Open advertising, and is visible throughout the grounds of the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. The USTA is proud to support WSF with a donation from the proceeds of this theme art.

The USTA is planning a full slate of activities to support this historic anniversary. A multi-dimensional history of equal prize money, and the impact that equal prize money has had on sports, will be launched online with additional promotion across the association’s social media channels. The series will include stories written by noted tennis journalists complemented with historic video footage, set to roll out over the five months leading to the 2023 US Open. Finally, a “What Equality Means to Me” series of essays penned by notable women from all disciplines of life, will begin to roll out in April. The first of these essays will be authored by King.

Equal prize money will be themed throughout the 2023 US Open and equality will be the focus of the US Open’s ongoing “Be Open” campaign. Now in its fourth year, the Be Open campaign emphasizes tennis’ commitment to diversity, inclusion and respect, and encourages all tennis fans to embrace these ideals.

Further information on the celebration of this historic milestone will be announced over the course of the year. The 2023 US Open begins with US Open Fan Week on Tuesday, Aug. 22, and the main draw of the tournament runs from Monday, Aug. 28 through Sunday, Sept. 10.