Sports

Billie Jean King won't attend Sochi opening citing mother's illness

In this file photo, President Barack Obama presents the 2009 Presidential Medal of Freedom to Billie Jean King, known for winning the famous "Battle of the Sexes" tennis match, and championing gender equality issues, during ceremonies at the White House in Washington.

In this file photo, President Barack Obama presents the 2009 Presidential Medal of Freedom to Billie Jean King, known for winning the famous "Battle of the Sexes" tennis match, and championing gender equality issues, during ceremonies at the White House in Washington.  (AP)

Billie Jean King will not attend Friday's opening ceremony of the Sochi Olympics in Russia because her mother is ill.

King was chosen in December to help lead the U.S. delegation to the Sochi Games. King has been outspoken in her opposition to Russia's anti-gay law and had planned to attend ice hockey and figure skating events and meet U.S. athletes during her three-day visit to the games.

King told The Associated Press on Wednesday that because of her mother's "failing health, I will not be able to join the U.S. Presidential delegation at this week's opening ceremonies of the Sochi Olympics."

Betty Moffitt, her 91-year-old mother, lives in Arizona and has been ill for some time. King will be joined by her brother Randy Moffitt, a former pitcher for the San Francisco Giants.

"It is important for me to be with my mother and my brother at this difficult time. I want to thank President Obama for including me in this historic mission and I look forward to supporting our athletes as they compete in Sochi."

The openly gay former tennis star said she'd like sexual orientation added to the list of protections in the charter of the International Olympic Committee.

In June, Russia passed a law banning gay "propaganda" to minors. In an interview with The Associated Press last month, King said: "It should be a non-issue. It's just like people of color in our country and other places, it has to be a non-issue."