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Billie Jean King in Indy: Equality Means Exercise and Access to Parks, Coaching

The tennis legend spent time with kids and got an award from Anthem that only three people have gotten before.

INDIANAPOLIS--Equality doesn't just mean equal rights for women and men. For Billie Jean King, it also means the ability for everyone to exercise and access to free coaching. The tennis legend was in Indianapolis Wednesday to get the Health Champion Award from Anthem Foundation.

"I've been wanting equality for everyone, which means nutrition, exercise, all those opportunities, access," she said, in an interview after getting the trophy, plus a $25,000 grant to go to the Billie Jean King Leadership Initiative.

"My brother and I had access to public parks as a child and also we had free coaching. Those are the things that are really important," said King.

King is a six-time Wimbledon singles champion and a four-time winner of the U.S. Open. In 2009, she became the first woman athlete to be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor. 

She was recently portrayed by Emma Watson in the movie "Battle of the Sexes", a film about the tennis match in which King defeated Bobby Riggs in 1973.

"Tennis is a lifetime sport, a great one to get into. We don't have too many concussions. We have a lot less challenges. It's a great one to get a child into," she said Wednesday. In 1973, it wasn't just about tennis. It was about equality. King became the first woman to make $100,000 in a year from a sport.

She was also the first "Sports Illustrated" Sportsperson of the Year.

When asked about Indiana's obesity problem and what she tells people tio get them motivated to move, she said it's not just about the people in the house who are eating, the people who are providing the food have to be educated.

"Nutrition is really important. A lot of the challenges people don't understand," she said. "It's not easy. I've always had trouble with my weight. I know obesity kills the health budget in this country."

King said she supports the #metoo movement, saying people should talk about abuse when they are ready and that both mean and women can be abused.

She also praised an old friend, Barbara Wynne, who helped start the National Junior Tennis League, Indy branch, at North Central High School in 1970, and who has been recognized nationally for her efforts.

Anthem Foundation has awarded the Anthem Health Champion Award to athletes including Glenn Robinson III, Michael Phelps and Eli Manning, whose philanthropic work conveys the message on improving overall public health. She is the first woman to receive the Anthem Health Champion Award. 

PHOTO: Chris Davis/Emmis

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