2005 : V is for Victory

Jul 25, 2023, 3:11:31 PM

Venus Williams calls for equal prize money

In 2005, Venus Williams played two  Wimbledon finals. The day before winning an epic battle against Lindsay Davenport on 2 July, she fought another battle in the Wimbledon offices. She came to the tournament board to keep up the fight for equality started by Billie Jean King in 1973, when the leader of the Original 9 obtained equal prize money at the US Open. Thirty years later, Venus Williams asked the Wimbledon board to do the same, in vain. But she did not give up. 

In 2006, she defended the women’s cause to the face of international tennis in The Times, and her cry from the heart was passed on in the world’s media. “No one would have thought that this would have such a big impact,” she said later. “I ended up in the spotlight. For some reason, most people did not feel comfortable talking about the unequal prize money between men and women, or maybe they couldn’t find the right words to do so, which was not the case for me.” By speaking out loud, she got the big names of the WTA circuit, like Jennifer Capriati, Maria Sharapova, and Kim Clijsters to follow her lead over the following months. In 2007, all Grand Slam tournament hosts finally decided to give men and women equal prize money. Fate  can be smart sometimes; Venus Williams won her fourth Wimbledon title that  year and became the  first woman to earn as much money as men in London. 

The Centre Court was like her own garden at that point. Still, Venus’ fight for equal pay  had just started; her speech goes beyond tennis today. “This is a real problem and we have to close this pay gap,” she said in USA Today in March 2022. “When we were fighting for equal prize money in tennis, we used the media as our partners to tell our story and to advocate for us and to let people know. And even if you were a person that didn’t agree with it, you knew about it. That is where the media can play a big role. In a perfect world –my utopia one day– we all are recognized as human beings who are worthy of equity. It’s a wonderful dream and it is definitely possible.”