A $5,000 check won by Billie Jean King 50 years ago helped create Women's Sports Foundation

NEW YORK (AP) — Billie Jean King’s $5,000 check sure went a long way for women’s sports.

King used the money from a sportswoman of the year award to launch the Women’s Sports Foundation in 1974. Since then, the foundation has invested more than $100 million to help girls and women gain opportunities and equity in sports.

At the Empire State Building on Thursday, King attended a celebration with WSF president Scout Bassett and WSF CEO Danette Leighton ahead of the iconic landmark being lit in the foundation colors of blue, red, pink and yellow.

King said the foundation's "bold action has contributed to many transformative moments … to help girls and women achieve their athletic dreams, while eliminating barriers that stand in the way. And our work is not done yet.”

Through research, advocacy and community programming, the WSF aims to ensure equity in sports opportunities, equipment, facilities and pay. It provides Sports 4 Life programs for underserved girls, travel and training grants, mentorship and support for Title IX compliance.

King started the foundation a year after the passage of Title IX, the federal law that prohibits sex discrimination in any school or education program that receives federal funds.

Vice President Kamala Harris recently hosted an event to honor women in sports in celebration of Women’s History Month.

“Leaders throughout the country are recognizing what the Women’s Sports Foundation has known since 1974: when girls and women play, they lead, and we all win,” Leighton said.

The organization also works to grow the coaching pipeline through the Tara VanDerveer Fund for the Advancement of Women in Coaching. The Stanford basketball coach recently retired as the winningest coach in NCAA history.

The WSF will hold its annual awards dinner Oct. 16 in New York and celebrate “50 Years of Changing the Game.” It will host nearly 100 athletes and honor a sportswoman of the year in the individual and team categories.

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