U.S. athletes Simone Biles and Megan Rapinoe were among 17 recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom on Thursday.
Per the White House, the honor is bestowed to recognize "exemplary contributions to the prosperity, values, or security of the United States, world peace, or other significant societal, public or private endeavors." President Joe Biden presented the medals to recipients at the White House.
Biles, 25, is the youngest person to ever receive the honor, which is the highest awarded to civilians by the federal government. A seven-time Olympic medalist with four golds, she's widely recognized as the greatest gymnast of all time. She's wielded her status to advocate for sexual assault survivors and spoke out against the abuse she suffered at the hands of former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar, who's now serving a 175-year prison term for assaulting 168 young women and girls.
Biles is also an outspoken advocate for mental health awareness after withdrawing from multiple events at the Tokyo Olympics white citing mental health struggles. She's since made mental health advocacy a centerpiece of her post-Olympic career.
“Today, she adds to her medal count,” Biden said on Thursday. “I don’t know how you’re going to find room.”
Like Biles, Rapinoe is a decorated U.S. athlete who's wielded her platform to advocate for social issues. A soccer player for the U.S. Women's National Team and in the NWSL, Rapinoe is a two-time World Cup winner and a gold- and bronze-medal Olympian.
She helped lead the fight for equal pay among USWNT and USMNT members and is a vocal advocate for LGBTQ+ rights and racial justice. She's the first soccer player to be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Rapinoe pays tribute to Brittney Griner during ceremony
Rapinoe maintained her advocacy in the process of receiving her medal on Thursday, wearing a jacket with "BG" embroidered on the lapel in honor of WNBA star Brittney Griner, who remains detained by the Russian government.
— Analis Bailey (@analisbailey) July 7, 2022
Others awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom included Apple co-founder Steve Jobs (posthumously), former U.S. Sen. John McCain (posthumously), actor Denzel Washington (absent after contracting COVID-19), former U.S. Rep. and gun-control advocate Gabrielle Giffords and Sandra Lindsay, a New York nurse who was the first person to receive a COVID-19 vaccine outside of clinical trials.