Former world champion tennis star Billie Jean King has expressed her support for the announcement that the U.S. Open Squash Championships will provide equal prize money for men and women from this year’s event.
In a world first for squash, it was announced this week by U.S. Squash that the U.S. Open will lead the way in the industry by raising the prize money for women $115,000 to make it equal to the men’s fund, also ahead of many other professional sports yet to achieve parity for both genders.
“Any time you can achieve equality in any field of endeavor – be it in sports or in life – everyone wins,” said the sports icon and social justice pioneer.
“This announcement is so much more about the message than the money, and I am thrilled another U.S. championship event has stepped up and done the right thing.”
The U.S. Open Squash Championships brings together the world’s most elite male and female players to compete in one of the top international displays of professional squash talent in the world.
It receives global recognition as one of the premier events on the squash calendar, and forms part of the World Series tour – equivalent to the Grand Slam in tennis – for both the Professional Squash Association (PSA) and Women’s Squash Association (WSA).
In 1972, King won the U.S. Open tennis, but earned $15,000 less money than the men’s winner Ilie Năstase, leading to hear announcement that she would not compete the following year if the prize money was not equal. Her campaigning led to the U.S. Open Tennis becoming the first major tournament to offer equal prize money for men and women in 1973.
U.S. Squash CEO, Kevin Klipstein, said he was appreciative of the support of the eminent sports champion.
“Billie Jean King has led the way for so many girls and women in the last four decades,” he said. “We are pleased to build on recent advances in providing opportunities for girls and women by finally offering full parity in prize money for the U.S. Open.
“To this day real disparities in rights and opportunities for women and girls continue in the US, and even more so internationally. The messages we send with our actions, large and small, overt and subtle, matter.”
From 2013, the women’s draw will also be increased to 32 players from a previous 16 player draw, now in line with the men’s draw, providing greater opportunity for female professional players to compete in the World Series event.
Women’s Squash Association Chairman and CEO, Ingrid Lofdahl-Bentzer also expressed her appreciation of the announcement by U.S. Squash.
“As so many times before, the US has been the torch bearer for equality. The WSA is proud of being yet another sport benefiting from the firm beliefs and consequent actions of gender equality,” she said.
“To our delight, U.S. Squash is stepping up to the plate by awarding equal prize money across the board in the prestigious US Open”
The 2013 Delaware Investments U.S. Open Squash Championships will be held from October 9-18 at Drexel University in Philadelphia.