It starred the then-closeted tennis great Billie Jean King in a match with Bobby Riggs, a retired player some 26 years her senior who was adamant he could beat any woman who stepped onto the court.
King herself feared that using a tennis match to champion the cause of equality would turn into a circus, and only agreed to play Riggs after he trounced Margaret Court, then the women’s number 1 player, 6-2, 6-1, in what was nicknamed the Mother’s Day Massacre.
With 90 million people watching worldwide, King prevailed in three sets (6-4, 6-3, 6-3), and the match became a cornerstone of second-wave feminism, putting sports at the heart of a national conversation around gender equality.
But off-court King was waging another battle, trying to balance her public persona as a happily married woman with her attraction to women.
I think the film helped me stop for a few moments—because I’m always going through life pretty fast— and to really appreciate what we did back then.
I was listening to an interview with Roger Federer, and he said how much he loves having his balanced life, people to take care of him, his schedule.
She sent me some beautiful text messages about the pain she was in, or that it was messy, and I knew that was the place that I had to find for her in that period—her strength of spirit is unlike that of anyone I’ve ever met, but there was also this confusion and this pain and things I could really relate to.