TODAY   |  January 09, 2014

Billie Jean King: US delegation ‘what America looks like’

The tennis great discusses heading to Sochi as one of three openly gay members of the U.S. delegation in an exclusive interview with TODAY’s Matt Lauer.

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

>> now we'll turn to another woman who has inspired many, billie jean king , one of three members appointed by the president to the winter olympic games in sochi in just 28 days . billie jean , nice to see you. how are you?

>> great. how are you?

>> i'm doing fine. i want to talk about what some are calling the statement that is being made by this delegation. i'd like to start and ask you about safety. are you worried?

>> i was originally but i'm not now because i know they're going to have security, fbi, state department security, different security. you got to go for it anyway. you can't keep those types of things coming into your head. you have to go for it and go.

>> but as an athlete, are you worried to secure these games they're going to have to make it look more like a military exercise than a spectacular athletic event?

>> i think when it all gets down to it, it's first and foremost about the athletes. i was thinking about this this morning. i was trying to go way back when i was one of those athletes and how many years of discipline and how hard they work every day. this could be their one moment in time. first represent our country and go for a medal. it an amazing moment for most of these athletes. that's really what the olympics are about. yes, we're going to get into the others, the essences of the olympic and paralympics.

>> let's talk about the other. as one of three openly gay americans, a lot being made about i anti-propaganda laws and a lot of people in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community want a statement made in sochi russia to show the russian government . what is the appropriate statement?

>> the appropriate statement? i think president obama showed it. he's elected and selected three openly gay athletes, one very former athlete. and we step -- i think brian said when we step off the plane, we are part of america, we are what america looks like. so i think president obama has done an amazing job on promoting diversity and inclusion. he has been the all-time president for doing that and he's showing the russians, listen, everybody belongs in the united states of america .

>> but you sparked conversation not long ago just at the end of last year when you said -- i'm paraphrasing time -- for some kind of a john carlos moment in sochi , referring to john carlos , who in mexico city along with tommy smith held up their fist as a protest for civil rights .

>> it's really about human rights , civil rights , you're right. it looks to me like bode miller is already speaking out, the athletes are speaking out. so between those and others, who knows what's going to happen. i know that there's a rule, though, that they cannot -- i think it's called rule 50, they're not supposed to demonstrate or show any protesting. but if the media asks them a question, then they can respond accordingly is my understanding.

>> do you expect there to be an enormous outpouring of support and even subtle and quiet protests in sochi ?

>> you know, i don't know. i think that's what's exciting, it's the unexpected. but when it gets down to the athletes, they have to concentrate on the task at hand.

>> you don't want it to overshadow the olympic games .

>> no, i don't. it about the athletes.

>> what is the one front row seat you want at an olympic event?

>> i just want to meet the athletes. i know i'm old now -- i feel young , though, i feel great. i'm 70. i'm going to look for future leaders.

>> i'm going to look for you in sochi . great to see you.

>> great to see you as well. happy new year.

>> we're back right after this.

>>> coming up friday on "today," savannah will get you ready for one of the biggest parties of the year, the golden globes . and then we'll take a look at the figure state competition with scott