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Megan Rapinoe, Simone Biles Receive Presidential Medal of Freedom from Joe Biden

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured Columnist IVJuly 7, 2022

SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images

USWNT winger Megan Rapinoe and Olympic gymnast Simone Biles were among the recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom from United States President Joe Biden on Thursday.

CSPAN @cspan

Megan Rapinoe (<a href="https://twitter.com/mPinoe?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@mpinoe</a>) receives the Presidential Medal of Freedom <a href="https://t.co/GGc4JGwJxg">pic.twitter.com/GGc4JGwJxg</a>

CSPAN @cspan

.<a href="https://twitter.com/Simone_Biles?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@Simone_Biles</a> receives the Presidential Medal of Freedom. <a href="https://t.co/5MPnIzDWTW">pic.twitter.com/5MPnIzDWTW</a>

They were among 17 recipients of the award on Thursday, joining former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, actor Denzel Washington—who couldn't attend Thursday's ceremony but will receive the award at a later date—Sandra Lindsay, who was the first American to receive the COVID-19 vaccine outside of clinical trials, and posthumous awards for Apple co-founder Steve Jobs and former Republican Sen. John McCain.

Rapinoe, 37, is a two-time World Cup champion, two-time Olympic medalist (gold in 2012, bronze in 2021) and was named both the Ballon d'Or Feminin and Best FIFA Women's Player in 2019.

On the pitch, she is one of most successful and iconic soccer players in the history of the sport. Off the pitch, she has been a vocal advocate for LGBQT+ rights and equal pay for women's soccer players.

"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.

Rapinoe had the initials "BG" stitched on her lapel in honor of WNBA player Brittney Griner, who is being wrongly detained in Russia after allegedly being caught with cannabis oil in her luggage at an airport in February.

She pled guilty in a Russian court on Thursday and is facing up to 10 years in prison if convicted, though it is widely believed that Russia is holding her as a political prisoner in an effort to make a prisoner swap with the United States and that Griner's plea on Thursday was a strategic maneuver to help expedite any such agreement.

Meg Linehan @itsmeglinehan

Today's Presidential Medal of Freedom ceremony is streaming on YouTube here: <a href="https://t.co/Xpfn4AipwT">https://t.co/Xpfn4AipwT</a><a href="https://twitter.com/mPinoe?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@mPinoe</a> just posted this photo of her outfit to her Instagram, with the nod to Brittney Griner. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/USWNT?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#USWNT</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/WeAreBG?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#WeAreBG</a> <a href="https://t.co/qSkrhiJl6M">pic.twitter.com/qSkrhiJl6M</a>

Biles, 25, is arguably the greatest gymnast in the history of the sport, with seven Olympic medals (four gold) and 25 World Championships medals (19 gold).

"Today, [Biles] adds to her medal count of 32 —I don’t know if you're gonna find room," Biden said.

Biles, who withdrew from several events at the 2020 Games after going through the "twisties"—when gymnasts feel like they aren't in complete control of their bodies or movements and have difficulty tracking their landing point—has become an advocate for mental health conditions in that aftermath.

Biden said that Biles was able to "turn personal pain into a greater purpose, to stand up and speak for those who cannot speak for themselves."

Biles is the youngest ever recipient of the Medal of Freedom.

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