Why Billie Jean King and partner Ilana Kloss joining Dodgers ownership group is important

Billie Jean King and her partner Ilana Kloss have joined the Los Angeles Dodgers ownership group.

The Dodgers made the announcement Thursday in a press release, and held a press conference welcoming the newest members of the Dodgers ownership group on Friday. 

"We're excited and proud to welcome two trailblazing athletes, social advocates and businesswomen, Billie Jean King and Ilana Kloss, to our ownership group," said Mark Walter, Dodgers owner and chairman. "Just like Billie Jean and Ilana, the Dodger franchise has a history of and commitment to breaking barriers, inclusion and winning, and we're looking forward to them continuing to promote these attributes within our organization."

King, 74, and Kloss, 62, are former professional tennis players who together have used their platform to advocate for women's and LGBTQ causes. The pair co-founded the Billie Jean King Leadership Initiative, which addresses inclusion and diversity issues in the workplace. King and Kloss are also founding board members of the Elton John AIDS Foundation and both serve on the executive committee of the Women's Sports Foundation (WSF).

King and Kloss also have been longtime owners in World TeamTennis at both the league and team levels.

King, a Long Beach native, is most famous for beating Bobby Riggs in a groundbreaking singles match in 1973. As a professional tennis player, King won 39 Grand Slam titles. Kloss became the No. 1 ranked doubles player in the world in 1976.

"As someone born, raised and educated in Southern California, it is an honor to be part of the Dodger ownership group," King said. "We share a commitment to equality and inclusion, including the LGBTQ community, and we hope to further expand the team's efforts in those areas as we move forward together."

King, who was outed as gay in 1981, was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama in 2009 for her work in women's advocacy and LGBTQ initiatives.

"I grew up with the Dodgers," King said Friday at Dodger Stadium. "They came here in 1958 when I was 14 years old, and my younger brother (former San Francisco Giants, Houston Astros and Toronto Blue Jays reliever Randy Moffitt) went on to play 12 years of major league baseball, so it's in our blood. My dad was a scout for the Brewers for a while. It's a dream come true."

In addition to joining the Dodgers ownership group, King and Kloss are also expected to join Mark Walter as members of the WNBA's Los Angeles Sparks ownership group, pending league approval.

Major League Baseball's journey to becoming a more inclusive and accepting sports league first began under Commissioner Bud Selig. In 2013, MLB issued a policy prohibiting players from harassing and discriminating against others players based on their sexual orientation. Then in 2014, Commissioner Selig appointed former outfielder Billy Bean as MLB's first Ambassador for Inclusion.

Bean has since been promoted to vice president for social responsibility and inclusion, and today he continues to develop strategies with a focus on the LGBTQ community. Bean came out as gay in 1999, four years after his final major league season.

During the 2018 season, 29 out of the 30 MLB teams hosted a LGBTQ Pride night. The New York Yankees were the only MLB team not to host a LGBTQ Pride Night. (On Friday, the Yankees announced a LGBTQ initiative for 2019.)

Real progress seems to be happening for Major League Baseball's message of acceptance and inclusion, and both King and Kloss' presence in the baseball community have already become a powerful and optimistic message to female and LGBTQ baseball fans everywhere.

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