9 female athletes you might never have heard of if not for Title IX

Thursday is 50th anniversary of Title IX being signed into law

FILE - Tennis legend and equality rights advocate Billie Jean King, speaks at a Women's History Month event honoring women athletes in celebration of the 50th Anniversary of Title IX, March 9, 2022, on Capitol Hill in Washington. As the nation celebrates the 50th anniversary of Title IX, a new poll finds Americans are split on how much progress has come from the landmark women's rights law. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File) (Jacquelyn Martin, Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Thursday marks the 50th anniversary of one of the most significant pieces of legislation ever signed.

On June 23, 1972, then-President Richard Nixon signed into law Title IX of the Education Amendments, which stated:

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“No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.”

Since the legislation was signed, the landscape of sports changed forever with the opportunities it has given female athletes.

While there are have been millions of female athletes impacted over the past 50 years, on the anniversary of this legislation, here are nine legendary female athletes we are highlighting that you might never heard of if not for Title IX.

Billie Jean King

July 1964: American tennis player Billie Jean Moffitt (later King) is shown in action during a semifinal in the women's singles championship at Wimbledon. (Dennis Oulds/Central Press/Getty Images)

An advocate of Title IX’s legislation who went to Congress to testify on behalf of its passing, King is one of the greatest female tennis players ever, having won all four majors and 12 career Grand Slam singles titles. She also won 16 Grand Slam titles in doubles and 11 in mixed doubles.

Cheryl Miller

Photo by David Madison. (Getty Images)

One of the greatest basketball players — male or female — to ever play, Miller helped bring women’s basketball to unforeseen heights in the ‘80s. She scored 105 points in a high school game, scored over 3,000 career points in college and won two national championships at Southern California. To top if off, she was a member of the U.S. women’s basketball team that won a gold medal at the 1984 Summer Olympics.

Allyson Felix

Allyson Felix of the United States smiles at the finish line of the women's 200-meter competition at the Golden Gala Pietro Mennea IAAF Diamond League athletics meeting in Rome, Thursday, June 9, 2022. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini) (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

At last summer’s Olympics in Tokyo, Felix became the most decorated track and field athlete ever — male or female — from the U.S. when she won her 11th overall medal. Felix has competed at the last five Summer Olympics.

Michelle Akers

Photo by Gilbert Iundt/Corbis/VCG. (Getty Images)

Before the likes of Mia Hamm, Megan Rapinoe or Carli Lloyd got recognition as impactful female soccer players for the U.S. Women’s National Team, Akers was the original American female soccer star.

Akers was named FIFA Female Player of the Century in 2002 and was the best player at the first ever Women’s World Cup in 1991, scoring 10 goals during the event in China to lead the U.S. to the title.

Akers was a starter on the U.S. team that won the 1999 World Cup.

Serena Williams

Serena Williams of the United States returns the ball during their doubles tennis match with Ons Jabeur of Tunisia against Marie Bouzkova of Czech Republic and Sara Sorribes Tormo of Spain at the Eastbourne International tennis tournament in Eastbourne, England, Tuesday, June 21, 2022. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth) (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Arguably the best female tennis player of all-time, Williams has 23 Grand Slam singles titles and has been ranked as the No. 1 player in the world 319 weeks.

She has also won 14 Grand Slam doubles titles.

Simone Biles

FILE - Simone Biles, of the United States, finishes on the balance beam during the artistic gymnastics women's apparatus final at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Tuesday, Aug. 3, 2021, in Tokyo, Japan. Biles 2021 experiences, and how she talked about them, helped drive a robust conversation about athletes emotional health. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis, File) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Widely regarded as the best gymnast of all-time, Biles won four Olympic gold medals, seven Olympic medals overall, and 19 gold medals at the World Championships in her storied career.

She won the all-around competition at the 2016 Rio Olympics and five times at the World Championships.

Jackie Joyner-Kersee

Photo by Mike Powell/Allsport/Getty Images (Getty Images)

Regarded by some as the best female track and field star from the U.S., Joyner-Kersee won gold medals in the heptathlon at the 1988 and 1992 Summer Olympics and won six Olympic medals overall.

She won medals at four different Olympics.

Nancy Lopez

Nancy Lopez chips the ball to the 16th green during the first round of the Colgate European Women's Golf Championship at Sunnigdale, England. (Getty Images)

The dominant female golfer of the 80s and 90s, Lopez won 48 LPGA events and three major championships.

She was LPGA Tour Player of the Year four times and won the money title on the tour three times. In 1987, she was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame.

Bonnie Blair

Photo by Simon Bruty/Getty Images (Getty Images)

Arguably the greatest U.S. female speed skater ever, Blair won five gold medals and one bronze medal over the course of three Winter Olympics from 1988 to 1994.

She won the 500 meters at each of those three Olympics in Calgary, Albertville and Lillehammer. She also won gold medals at three different World Championships.

Is there another female athlete not on this list you want to highlight on Title IX’s 50th anniversary? Let us know in the comments below.

About the Author

Keith is a member of Graham Media Group's Digital Content Team, which produces content for all the company's news websites.

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