Soccer legend Megan Rapinoe and Olympic gymnast Simone Biles received the Presidential Medal of Freedom on Thursday afternoon from President Joe Biden.
The 37-year-old is the first soccer player to receive the honor and the sixth female athlete in history. At 25-years-old, Biles became the youngest athlete since Tiger Woods received the honor in 2019 at 43. Fifteen other individuals were honored at Thursday’s ceremony. The medal is often thought of as the highest civilian honor in the United States.
“Beyond the World Cup titles and the Olympic medals, Megan is a champion for [an] essential American truth that everyone — everyone — is entitled to be treated with dignity and respect,” Biden said in his speech about Rapinoe.
“Today, [Biles] adds to her medal count of 32 - I don’t know if you’re gonna find room,” Biden added.
Biden also noted that the four-time gold medalist is admirable because she used her courage “to turn personal pain into a greater purpose, to stand up and speak for those who cannot speak for themselves.”
Rapinoe is known as one of the leaders of the United States Women’s National Team’s fight for equal pay. The USWNT was able to achieve equal pay for the FIFA World Cups with a historic CBA agreement back in May.
“Megan did something really consequential, she helped lead the change for perhaps the most important victory for anyone on her soccer team, or any soccer team: equal pay for women,” Biden said.
Rapinoe has played on the USWNT since 2006, helping the team to secure an Olympic gold medal and two FIFA World Cup titles. She’s also competed on various NWSL teams since 2009, and she remains apart the OL Reign since 2013.
The soccer star shared her support for WNBA’s Brittney Griner, who has been detained in Russia since Feb. 17, by threading “BG” with a flower on the lapel of her jacket that she wore to Thursday’s ceremony. Griner pleaded guilty to the drug charges on Thursday.
In Biles’ two Olympic appearances (2016, 2021), she’s earned four gold, one silver and two bronze medals. She also has 19 World Championship gold medals.
The gymnast took a mental health rest during 2021’s Tokyo Olympics. This sparked a conversation surrounding athletes and mental health. She was still able to help her team to a silver team medal.