King was honored with the award herself in 1999.
Jenner, a former Olympic decathlete, announced last month that she was transitioning to become a woman in an interview broadcast on ABC. Earlier this week, she made her public debut as Caitlyn on the cover of Vanity Fair.
“The interview with then-Bruce Jenner, and now Caitlyn Jenner, really helped people to be clear in understanding, especially about gender vs. sexuality,” King told the AP. “Everybody's always getting very confused with that. Then they finally realized they have nothing to do with each other.”
The 71-year-old King said she is “really happy” that Jenner will finally be comfortable in her own skin.
King famously won the “Battle of the Sexes” tennis match against 55-year-old Bobby Riggs in 1973. She started the Women's Tennis Association that same year and later helped transgender tennis player Renee Richards win the right to join the women's pro tour in 1977.
Jenner won the gold medal in the decathalon in the 1976 Olympics in Montreal as Bruce, and also placed 10th in the decathalon in the 1972 Olympics in Munich. The Arthur Ashe Courage Award is given to individuals whose actions transcend sports.
- Molly Geary