On Thursday, April 20, in Beverly Hills, Calif., the Women’s Sports Foundation hosted a blow-out celebration of positive media representation of girls’ and women’s sports, named The Billies in honor of our founder Billie Jean King, a true pioneer. The purpose of this celebration was three-fold. On a basic level, we recognized those organizations and individuals who are towing the line. Additionally, we aimed to bring the issue of media representation to the forefront of conversation in hopes of being a catalyst for much-needed improvement. The harrowing truth is that despite colossal progress post-Title IX, women’s sports comprise a scant eight percent of all sports coverage. Lastly, the black-tie gala served as a fundraiser to help promote opportunities for girls and women.
The evening began with a bang as 50 of the world’s best athletes, past and present, paraded across the stage in the Grand March of Athletes, hosted by champion distance swimmer and commentator, Diana Nyad. The energy escalated as Mia Hamm, Peggy Fleming, Maria Sharapova, Lisa Fernandez, Laila Ali and others graced the stage at the Beverly Hilton. In reflection of the incredible display of athleticism, First Lady of California, Maria Shriver said, “to see you all up here made me proud to be a woman. This is the real deal.”
After the march, four Billie Awards (created by The Billies official award sponsor, Tiffany & co.) were presented by a host of celebrities including: Marcia Cross, Sharon Stone, Penny Marshall, James Worthy, James Denton and more.
To cap off the incredible evening, Sir Elton John, a longtime friend of Billie Jean King, played an extraordinary concert. With youthful fervor in his true animated style, he treated the crowd to a host of old favorites, including the song, Philadelphia Freedom, which he wrote for King. The ballroom at the Beverly Hills was electric with energy. Water glasses shook on the tables. Guests kicked off their heels and danced. And just about every song instigated a standing ovation.
When the night came to a close, Sir Elton John captured the feeling of the night best in saying, “I am proud to be here in a room of people, of women, who strive for such excellence.” That quest for excellence and refusal to compromise was a common thread that united all the athletes, media honorees, celebrities and organizers of the inaugural Billie Awards. Truly a night etched in the memories of all those who shared in its splendor.
**Sharon Stone **
**Billie Jean King **
**Geena Davis **
Deion Sanders and Nancy Leiberman
**Sir Elton John **
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