President Joe Biden on Friday announced that soccer player Megan Rapinoe and gymnast Simone Biles are among 17 new recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.
Biles and Rapinoe are just the fifth and sixth female athletes to be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, joining Billie Jean King, Pat Summitt, Babe Didrikson Zaharias, and Annika Sorenstam.
Rapinoe, a two-time Olympic medalist and two-time World Cup champion, is the first soccer player to receive the award. The White House release credits her advocacy for “gender pay equality, racial justice, and LGBTQI+ rights.”
“I’m just shook,” Rapinoe told reporters on Friday. “I’m just totally overwhelmed and completely honored by this.”
Rapinoe went on to thank her family, friends, and teammates, and shine a light on other athlete-advocates, including Colin Kaepernick.
“You’re so brave and you gave us all the path to use our voice and step outside of ourselves,” Rapinoe said of Kaepernick.
She also highlighted the founders of the Black Lives Matter movement (Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi), Serena and Venus Williams, and Billie Jean King, who Rapinoe praised as “the OG, short-haired, wild-ass lesbian” who “opened so many doors and set the stage for so many of us.”
Biles, a seven-time Olympic medalist and one of the most decorated gymnasts of all time, is credited by the White House for her advocacy surrounding “athletes’ mental health and safety, children in the foster care system, and victims of sexual assault.”
Per OlympicTalk, Biles, 25, will shatter the record as the youngest athlete to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
A total of 647 people have previously been awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom since the award was established in 1963 by President John F. Kennedy. The full list of this year’s recipients can be found here.
The ceremony will be held at the White House on July 7, 2022.
Rapinoe, who is currently in Mexico for the 2022 Concacaf W Championship — the major qualifier for the qualifier for the 2023 Women’s World Cup and 2024 Paris Olympics — will miss the U.S. team’s game vs. Mexico in order to accept the award.
“Megan is of course very disappointed about missing a game, but I told her to go,” said U.S. women’s soccer head coach Vlatko Andonovski. “She has to go. This is a once in a lifetime honor, she deserves it, and she will be representing herself, her team and her country at the White House. I think I can speak for everyone at U.S. Soccer when I say we are very proud of Megan and the impact she’s made on our sport and our country as a person and a player.”
According to U.S. Soccer, Rapinoe received a phone call from “The White House” one week ago while at training camp in Colorado. She showed her phone screen to U.S. teammate Kelley O’Hara, who replied, “You probably need to pick that up.”
During a media call with reporters on Friday, Rapinoe concluded with a mic drop that played off of her infamous quote from the 2019 Women’s World Cup.
“I’m going to the f—ing White House.”
Follow Alex Azzi on Twitter @AlexAzziNBC