Meet the Press   |  January 26, 2014

Inspiration: The Story of Billie Jean King

NBC Correspondent Harry Smith reports on the legacy of tennis great Billie Jean King.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> with a little less than two weeks to go before the olympics in sochi , we wanted to bring you the inspiring story of billie jean king . breaking barriers has always been a part of the legendary athlete's life. she's now headed to sochi as a member of the presidential delegation to the opening ceremonies. our harry smith has this revealing profile.

>> billie jean king knew she wanted to change things from the time she was a kid.

>> when i was 12, i had an epif anyone about tennis that everybody wore white clothes, white shoes , played with white balls. everybody who played was white. so i asked myself, where is everybody else ? and that starred me thinking about just our tiny universe of our sport. my sport. but i also knew i was going to dedicate the rest of my life to equal rights and opportunities for boys and girls , men and women.

>> reporter: first she spearheaded the formation of the women's pro tour which fought for better prize money , better venues, better everything. back then, that made her arable rouser.

>> i don't believe it.

>> i had a dream. now the players today are living the dream and that's what we waned.

>> when she played bobby riggs in the battle of the sexes in 1973 , america was in a heated argument about the equal rights amendment . the match was a spectacular combination of hype, she did quite handily.

>> the women, oh, they go i win the out and asked for a raise the next day, their self-esteem went up.

>> in 19 1, king was outed by her former lover and assistants. it cost her everything.

>> i feel i've always tried to be honest.

>> it's horrible to be outed first of all. i was so publicly outed i lost all my endorsements in 24 hours . it's not a good feeling. and yet, that process started me getting to my truth, which was huge so it does in the end it sets you free.

>> that freedom has contributed to the enormous impact she's had on sports and equal rights . king was awarded the medal of freedom. she's an icon. a pioneer.

>> i don't really think about it that much. unless someone like you, harry, asked me the questions. when i wake up i'm happy i've got another opportunity today to go out and let's go for it, you know.

>> you're all fired up here.

>> i am totally fired up. it's all your fault. you get me fired up, harry into king is definitely fired up to be in the u.s. olympic delegation along with other openly gay athletes, brian boitano and caitlin cahow . they head to sochi soon in a russia that is anything but friendly to diversity.

>> is there a message inherent that.

>> c you the the.

>> just showing up there's a message. when you see us stand there and you know we're openly gay but more importantly we're athletes. we are athletes.

>> do you have security concerns about going there?

>> no, i think there will be ample security for us, and i think we need to be alert. i've thought about that. i get stressed out if i start thinking about it, i have to go.

>> you've seen so much dramatic change in your life seym. will there ever be a woman president.

>> from your lips to god's ears, please, harry, please we have to have a woman president.

>> will there ever be an openly gay president.

>> i think there will be some day.

>> king still thinks there are plenty of fields that need leveling like equal pay or representation in congress and she feels it's better to try than to stand by.

>> there's 0 two as to look at risk. not to do it sometimes is a bigger risk than to do it. i'd rather take the risk. if it can help move us all forward, great, that's what i want. you just learn to stay true to yourself is what you