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Celebrating LGBTQ sports history: Billie Jean King gets ownership stake in Dodgers

Every day in October we’re looking back at the athletes, coaches and events that made LGBTQ sports history.

Philadelphia Phillies v Los Angeles Dodgers
Billie Jean King and Ilana Kloss, who are part of the Los Angeles Dodgers ownership group, attend seventh annual LGBT Night prior to the start of the Philadelphia Phillies and Los Angeles Dodgers baseball game at Dodger Stadium on May 31, 2019 in Los Angeles, Calif.
Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Every day in October we’re looking back at the athletes, coaches and events that made LGBTQ sports history. Today, as the Los Angeles Dodgers celebrate their World Series victory, we’re celebrating the day in 2018 when Billie Jean King and partner Ilana Kloss became part owners of the Dodgers, just one part of the team’s investment in LGBTQ fans.

Tennis legend Billie Jean King gets ownership stake of Dodgers

Billie Jean King and Ilana Kloss want to stress LGBTQ inclusion.

By Jim Buzinski Sep 20, 2018

San Diego Padres v Los Angeles Dodgers
The newest members of the Los Angeles Dodgers ownership group Billie Jean King and Ilana Kloss, show off their jerseys on the field before the game against the San Diego Padres at Dodger Stadium on September 21, 2018 in Los Angeles, Calif.
Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

Billie Jean King and her partner, Ilana Kloss, have become minority owners of the Los Angeles Dodgers, the team announced today. Terms were not announced.

“As someone born, raised and educated in Southern California, it is an honor to be part of the Dodger ownership group,” King, 74, said in a news release. “Mark Walter and the entire Dodger organization are a first-class operation that have proven to be leaders in sports on and off the field of play. 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.”

“I have been fortunate to work closely with Mark and Kimbra Walter on some important projects, and I’m looking forward to being part of the Dodgers’ ownership group and helping the team expand its reach with new audiences,” Kloss said. “I hope to work with the team at a variety of levels and I share the organization’s proven commitment to excellence on the field and in the community.”

King, with 39 Grand Slam titles, is one of the most consequential athletes in history, with her influence felt far beyond simply being a star tennis player. She has been a forceful advocate for both women’s rights and LGBTQ rights. Her famous 1973 “Battle of the Sexes” match with Bobby Riggs was made into a 2017 film. Since being outed as gay in 1981, King has fought hard for LGBTQ rights.

King and Kloss, herself a former tennis player, have been partners since the late 1980s. King’s younger brother, Randy Moffitt, was a Major League Baseball pitcher for three teams from 1972-83.

Dodgers majority owner and chairman Walter and MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred both stressed inclusion in their statements about King’s ownership stake, a sign of a changing culture in the sport.

“Major League Baseball is pleased to welcome Billie Jean King and her partner Ilana Kloss to the Los Angeles Dodgers’ ownership group. Billie Jean King is a true American trailblazer who has tirelessly championed for gender pay equality, LGBTQ rights, and diverse, inclusive workforce leadership,” Manfred said.

“Through her groundbreaking efforts, she has earned some of the most highly regarded recognitions available to athletes and advocates. Ilana Kloss is well-known for being both a professional tennis player and for her work as the chief executive officer and commissioner of World Team Tennis.”

King and Kloss are the second and third openly LGBTQ people with ownership stakes in an MLB team. Laura Ricketts has been co-owner of the Cubs since 2009. Kevin McClatchy, himself openly gay, used to own the Pittsburgh Pirates. Dodgers senior vice president Erik Braverman is also openly gay.

In addition, King and Kloss are also expected to become minority owners of the Los Angeles Sparks, also owned by Walter’s Guggenheim Partners, pending approval by the WNBA. — Jim Buzinski


Dodgers LGBT Night was team’s most-attended game in 7 years

The Dodgers sold 56k tickets, with an estimated 12k people showing up specifically for LGBT Night.

By Cyd Zeigler Jun 4, 2019

The Los Angeles Dodgers’ LGBT Night, held last Friday to acknowledge, honor and support the LGBTQ community, drew the biggest crowd of fans for any Dodgers game since 2012 en route to selling a record number of tickets specifically for the LGBT Night package.

The Dodgers told Outsports that an estimated 12,000 fans attended the game specifically because it was the team’s LGBT Night. The team sold out of its LGBT Night ticket package and many LGBTQ fans bought regular game tickets to attend the game.

LGBT Night also drew the biggest crowd of any Major League Baseball game this season. Dodger Stadium has the largest capacity of any MLB stadium.

Every year for the last few years the Dodgers have held the most well-attended LGBT Pride Night in all of sports. It’s easy to understand why. In addition to donning Chavez Ravine with rainbow flags and numerous other ways to roll out the red carpet for LGBTQ fans (and non-fans), the team demonstrates a yearlong commitment to the community. The Dodgers have partnerships with LA Pride, various LGBTQ sports leagues and businesses, and this week are sponsoring Outsports Pride, including a Field Day at Dodger Stadium.

“I couldn’t be happier to make this event grow each and every year, but I am most proud of the Dodgers year-round relationship with the LGBTQ community,” said Dodgers Senior Vice-President Erik Braverman. “Sure, it is gratifying to bring everyone together to celebrate our pride at a Dodger game but I want fans to know that the Dodger organization values them and embraces them 365 days a year.”

Braverman said producer Andrew Sync is largely responsible for the success of the event as well as the team’s connection to the community, one of the unsung heroes in this powerful relationship between LGBTQ people and baseball’s most successful and popular team.

Another way the team is committing to the LGBTQ community is the announcement of Billie Jean King Bobblehead night on Sept. 21, where the first 40,000 fans in attendance will receive a bobblehead of the LGBTQ icon and Dodgers part owner. They unveiled the bobblehead at LGBT Night. — Cyd Zeigler

Billie Jean King bobblehead Dodgers
Billie Jean King with her bobblehead, Sept. 21, 2019, at Dodgers Stadium in Los Angeles, Calif.
Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers

Here’s one of the tweets showing King and Kloss celebrating the Dodgers World Series victory on the night of Tuesday, Oct. 28, 2020:

Look for another story celebrating LGBTQ sports history tomorrow and every day this month.