Tennis legend Billie Jean King said that she was outed for being gay. The American former number one player and winner of 39 Grand Slam titles revealed that she lost all her endorsement deals after she came out.
Billie Jean revealed about her coming out recently during a conversation with with Naomi Osaka and Nick Kyrgios.
“Everyone loves you guys, they listen to you guys and I think it’s great when you talk and talk about your feelings, kids need that. When I was outed in 81 for being gay, I lost everything in 24 hours,” said Billie Jean.
Billie Jean told the two young tennis stars about how people are more receptive when they hear athletes talk about personal issues and mental health today.
Billie Jean had earlier said that her forced outing as one of her “worst nightmares”. The outing happened when her former partner Marilyn Barnett filed a lawsuit in a local Los Angeles court in April 1981 seeking a share in her Malibu property and half of Billie Jean’s earnings during the seven years they were together.
Billie Jean was at the time married to her husband Larry, who was supportive of her. Billie Jean then called a press conference with her husband and confirmed that she had been in a relationship with Barnett.
“I’d grown up in a homophobic environment. So it was really something. This was the biggest struggle I’ve ever had in my life. I told my PR person and I told my lawyer, I want to have a press conference and I’m going to tell the truth. They said you cannot do that. No one’s ever done that. I said, I don’t care what people have done before me. I am telling you, I have to tell the truth,” the player said.
“I told the truth at this press conference. You could have heard a pin drop because I said ‘Yes, I did have an affair with Marilyn Barnett’,” said Billie Jean, who recalled the audible gasps in the room when she came out.
“The truth always sets you free. Eventually. I did lose all my money overnight and within 24 hours every single endorsement I had I lost it all… but it’s okay. It’s like you just start over. But I would never out somebody. Oh my god it is just horrible… Everyone has to decide when they’re ready to do something, each human being,” said Billie Jean.