Tennis stars and broadcasters gathered to celebrate the 50th anniversary of WTA and discuss what they hope the next 50 years hold
As they geared up for the US Open, tennis stars and sports broadcasters like Coco Gauff and Robin Roberts gathered Friday to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Women's Tennis Association and the implementation of equal pay for women at the famed Grand Slam.
While many strides have been made since the organization was founded in 1973, according to those who walked the purple carpet on Friday, there is still much to be done.
When asked what she hopes is accomplished in the next 50 years of the WTA and women’s sports in general, Roberts says the goal is to no longer have this discussion. “I hope that we're not having to have any discussion 50 years from now,” the 62-year-old Good Morning America cohost tells PEOPLE. “After being asked about equality someone responds ‘Yo, we're still talking about that?’ It’s not even a discussion anymore because it’s done. That’s what I hope.”
Mary Carillo adds, “Women deserve more dough,” and says it's “up to the youngins” to get the job done. But the 66-year-old American sportscaster confidently says, “They’ll get it done.”
Tennis legend and WTA founder Billie Jean King — whom the new generation can thank for equal pay at the US Open — agrees that it is up to the "youngins" to make a difference in the future, but says she'll stay fighting too. “I'm not done yet. That's how I feel, even though I'm older,” the 79-year-old says about her involvement with the WTA and the fight for equality. “We've got to stick together.”
Among those in the younger generation is Gauff, a favorite to win the 2023 US Open. She's eager to continue the movement toward equality.
“I think that for me, using my platform is something that's always been important to me, whether it's social justice or such things as equal pay,” the 19-year-old tennis star says. “I'm sure they had no clue what the future was going to look like after starting the WTA, but it takes people like that to start change. And I think that's what inspires me to speak out. I don't think I'll ever do anything that monumental, but I think every little bit, every voice matters.”
Gauff has already started using her voice for change. On day 1 of the US Open this past Monday in her match against Laura Siegemund, the tennis star approached umpire Marijana Veljovic in the third set to express frustration over lack of enforcement for time violation rules, resulting in the stadium erupting in applause as the teenager stood up for herself.
The tennis star, who moved on to the third round with another win on Wednesday, is prepared to make a difference. “I think that for the WTA to come this far in 50 years means a lot, and I know that I'm 'the future,' so hopefully I can lead that kind of movement… and hopefully tennis can continue to be the leader throughout that movement.”
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