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Billie Jean King serves up a message of equity and hope at Kleinhans

Mike Desmond

Tennis champion and cultural icon Billie Jean King appeared at Kleinhans Music Hall Monday night. Prior to the private event, King took time to reflect on her Buffalo memories, her role in the fight for equal rights and what she sees as a hopeful future.

"I'm really happy to be here because I played here in 1974 for the Philadelphia Freedoms at the Aud," said King, who recalled a crowd of nearly 12,000 people for their match against the long-forgotten Buffalo-Toronto Royals of World Team Tennis.

"It was wonderful and I've never forgotten it."

King also issued hopes for the continued health of Hall-of-Fame quarterback Jim Kelly and recalled how she had wanted a Super Bowl victory for the Buffalo Bills.

While the sentiments would connect with the majority of area residents, King did not shy away from more controversial topics, including gun control and gender equity.

"It's not about treating a person the way you want to be treated, it's really about treating them, the people, how they want to be treated. I think that's important to remember every day when we wake up."

Event organizer M & T Bank says it brought King to Buffalo in advance of National Women's History Month. Invitees reportedly included commercial banking clients along with representatives from local groups Evergreen Health Services, Pride Center of WNY and the WNY Women's Foundation. King was scheduled to hold a question-and-answer session.  A private screening was set to place of "Battle of the Sexes," the 2017 film which recounted King''s legendary match with aging men's tennis champion Bobby Riggs.

King also acknowledged her role in the long battle for women's rights and equity rights. Looking ahead, she says she gains hope from talks with students. 

"I really stress that the more you know about history, the more you know about yourself. And they love that. That seems to ring true to many young people," King said.

"Millennials are the greatest generation ever in the history of our country to believe in inclusion. And that's what's going to change our world."
 

 

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
Monday - Friday, 6 a.m. - 10 a.m.

Jay joined Buffalo Toronto Public Media in 2008 and has been local host for NPR's "Morning Edition" ever since. In June, 2022, he was named one of the co-hosts of WBFO's "Buffalo, What's Next."

A graduate of St. Mary's of the Lake School, St. Francis High School and Buffalo State College, Jay has worked most of his professional career in Buffalo. Outside of public media, he continues in longstanding roles as the public address announcer for the Buffalo Sabres of the National Hockey League and as play-by-play voice of Canisius College basketball.