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The true legacy of 'Battle of the Sexes': A look at the lasting effects of the 1973 match and the film's framing of the issues

Steven Zeitchik, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Entertainment News

Prize money at the majors is now equal. But don't let the movie trick you into thinking the Battle of the Sexes was an immediate force for change. It took some of the Slams decades for men and women to earn equal prize money: Wimbledon, the last tournament to do so, didn't change its policy until 2007.

Cringe-worthy

As recently as last year the head of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells questioned women's contributions to the game.

"They ride on the coattails of men," the CEO and tournament director Raymond Moore said, adding that, if he was a female player, he'd "go down every night on my knees and thank God that Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal were born."

He was widely condemned and subsequently resigned. But the fact "that this movie is relevant is what's so sad, isn't it?" Carell said, referring to gender-equality issues across multiple realms.

Stone looked at the bright side of the issue.

"It's relevant to see a film like this because these are the shoulders on which we now stand" in the fight for equal pay, she said.

Nor should one think only in terms of prize money: Endorsements, where many players make the bulk of their money, are an area of disparity too. Studies routinely show sponsor dollars for women can come in at a fraction of those for the top male players. A couple of years ago Caroline Wozniacki and Nadal, though each ranked third, were separated by $18 million in earnings ($33 million to $14 million).

"There should be a lot more shoe deals; there should be deals with Adidas and Nike and so many other brands," King said. "We still don't get as much as the men do because of the old-boy network."

What's striking watching co-directors Dayton and Faris re-create the match is how much of a cult of personality had sprung up around the principals. Rooting for Riggs or King said something about what you stood for -- politically, culturally, philosophically.

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