The U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation to award the the Congressional Gold Medal to former New Orleans Saints defensive back Steve Gleason, the Saints announced on Thursday.
Gleason, a Washington native who played for the Saints from 2000-2006, was diagnosed with ALS in 2011 and is being honored for his work to help others with the condition. Legislation was initially introduced in the Senate and House back in April by Sen. Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA). The U.S. Senate unanimously endorsed the award for Gleason in June. The final step needed to present Gleason with the award is for President Trump to sign the legislation, which is expected to happen in 2019.
Gleason will become the first former NFL player to receive the award.
"It is a true honor to witness Steve Gleason become the first New Orleanian and former NFL Legend to receive the Congressional Gold Medal,” Saints Owner Gayle Benson said. “Along with his wife, Michel, and everyone at Team Gleason, they have unfailingly confronted ALS with a courageous and unwavering determination. Their tireless work to provide crucial assistance and the latest in technology and services has improved countless people’s quality of living. Steve is leaving a truly indelible mark in American history and we are honored to call him a true New Orleans Saint.”
Gleason is known for helping organize the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge in 2014, generating more than $100 million and raising widespread awareness to help fight the disease.
"Through his work to help others who are disabled, Steve Gleason has changed so many lives for the better," Cassidy said in a statement Thursday. "As more members of Congress heard about Steve's work, the support for this bill only grew. Steve is a hero to many and I'm proud we got this done to honor a great American."