NEW YORK, Oct. 12, 2023 /PRNewswire/ -- As interest and investment in women's sports continues to grow globally, hundreds of supporters gathered on Thursday night at the Women's Sports Foundation's (WSF) Annual Salute to Women in Sports. Recognized as the biggest night in women's sports, the event's programming looked ahead to the organization's 50th anniversary in 2024, honored trailblazers in the fight for gender equity, and celebrated a year of major milestones in women's sports. Honored this evening with WSF's signature Salute awards were the United States Tennis Association's (USTA) Chief Executive, Professional Tennis, and US Open Tournament Director, Stacey Allaster, University of Washington runner and Indigenous Peoples' advocate, Rosalie Fish, Athletes Unlimited Co-founders, Jon Patricof and Jonathan Soros, four-time Paralympian in Wheelchair Basketball, Natalie Schneider and Women's Undisputed Middleweight World Champion Boxer, Claressa Shields. The Salute was held at Cipriani Wall Street® in New York City and presented by WSF National Partners Delta Air Lines, ESPN, Gatorade, NBC Sports, and TIAA, with an exclusive reception partner Ally. For the first time, WSF offered a Childcare Zone in partnership with &Mother that provided childcare and lactation support for mom-athletes.
This year's Annual Salute commemorated the 50th anniversary of several significant milestones in WSF Founder Billie Jean King's fight for gender equity in sports, including: 50 years of equal prize money at the US Open; the creation of the Women's Tennis Association; and Billie Jean's victory over Bobby Riggs in the iconic "Battle of the Sexes." Billie Jean King's seismic impact in sports and society, set the path to equity for girls and women that we benefit from to this day. From the NCAA Women's Basketball March Madness Tournament's record-breaking viewership to the FIFA Women's World Cup setting a new all-time attendance benchmark to the Nebraska Cornhuskers women's volleyball match breaking the world record for women's sports attendance – Billie Jean King's vision for a more equitable future 50 years ago is allowing girls and women in sport to live out their athletic dreams today.
"Nearly 50 years ago, I founded the Women's Sports Foundation to protect Title IX and to fight for gender equality in sports - from the grassroots to collegiate and professional levels - so that all girls and women can benefit from sport and its transformative power," said King. "We must always challenge and strive to change the status quo. I am encouraged to see this year's honorees who are breaking records, eliminating barriers, and empowering future generations to keep playing."
The honorees for this year's awards included:
In partnership with the Billie Jean King Leadership Initiative, the Billie Jean King Leadership Award, presented by Darcie Glazer Kassewitz and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Foundation, recognizes an individual or group who demonstrates outstanding leadership and makes significant contributions to the advancement of women through achievements in sport and the workplace.
Wilma Rudolph Courage Award, presented by Cracker Jack®, recognizes a woman athlete or a team who exhibits extraordinary courage in their athletic performance, demonstrates the ability to overcome adversity, makes significant contributions to sports, and serves as a role model.
Champion(s) for Equality Award, presented by TIAA, acknowledges an individual or organization that shows unwavering commitment to gender equality and to the advancement of girls and women in sports.
Sportswoman of the Year® Award – Team, presented by the U.S. Air Force and Sportswoman of the Year Award – Individual, presented by Endeavor, recognize athletes (in both team and individual sports) who exhibited exceptional athletic performance over the last 12 months.
More information about the honorees and their awards can be found here.
The Foundation also previewed plans for its own 50th anniversary celebration in 2024, which will honor the organization's role as one of the first to recognize that equality in sport for girls and women leads to equality in life.
"Tonight was an inspiring event honoring the trailblazing athletes and business leaders who continue to champion the movement for true equity in sport," said Danette Leighton, CEO of the Women's Sports Foundation. "The Women's Sports Foundation plays a critical role in protecting the full ecosystem of women's sports, and while great strides have been made in the last 50 years, our work is not done. We must continue to create and advocate for opportunities for girls and women to thrive in sports, knowing that doing so creates more opportunities for them to flourish in life."
Additional support for the evening was provided by Athlete Lounge sponsor DraftKings.
More information about the Annual Salute can be found here.
About the Women's Sports Foundation
The Women's Sports Foundation exists to enable girls and women to reach their potential in sport and life. We are an ally, an advocate and a catalyst. Founded by Billie Jean King in 1974, we strengthen and expand participation and leadership opportunities through research, advocacy, community programming and a wide variety of collaborative partnerships. From its inception to Title IX's 50th anniversary in 2022, WSF has invested over $100 million in these impact efforts, helping to shape the lives of millions of youth, high school and collegiate student-athletes, elite athletes, and coaches. We're building a future where every girl and woman can #KeepPlaying and unlock the lifelong benefits of sport participation. All girls. All women. All sports® To learn more about the Women's Sports Foundation, please visit www.WomensSportsFoundation.org.