Billie Jean King Wants to Save The S.S. United States

Billie Jean King—the retired tennis player who once upon a time struck an excellent blow for feminism—is now taking up the cause of the decrepit but not-dead-yet SS United States, the luxury liner long parked in dock near Ikea in South Philadelphia. The SS United States Conservancy sent out this press release this afternoon:

This time it’s not a Battle of the Sexes, it’s a race against time as one American champion lends a hand to save another. With the SS United States Conservancy continuing its SOS campaign to save America’s Flagship, Tennis Hall of Famer and owner of the Philadelphia Freedoms of Mylan World TeamTennis, Billie Jean King will be assisting the non-profit group in raising awareness about the plight of our nation’s most historic maritime achievement. King will also serve as an honorary member of the Conservancy’s Advisory Council.

The historic ocean liner SS United States endures as an enduring symbol of America’s power and innovation. An icon of her age, she was one of the great American engineering achievements of the 20th century. The ship, which today awaits her renewal at a Philadelphia pier, is 100 feet longer than the Titanic and still holds the transatlantic speed record.

“Billie Jean’s commitment to the ship comes at a critical time and we are grateful for her willingness to be a champion for the United States once again,” said Susan Gibbs, the SS United States Conservancy’s executive director and granddaughter of the vessel’s designer. In March, the Conservancy launched an urgent S.O.S. campaign hoping to raise $500,000 in short-term funds to cover the 1,000-foot-long ship’s extensive maintenance costs. The funds will give the organization additional time to formalize an agreement with developers to repurpose the ship into mixed-use use development and museum complex, including a Center for Design and Discovery, event space, retail, dining, and hospitality uses.