USWNT Legend Rapinoe Honored with Presidential Medal of Freedom

The 36-year-old midfielder has become a sporting icon in the United States for her work on and off the pitch

USA Women’s National Team idol Megan Rapinoe will receive the prestigious Presidential Medal of Freedom, becoming the first female soccer player to receive the honor.

Rapinoe, 36, has excelled not only on the pitch but also off it, where she has worked tirelessly as an activist for LGBT rights, racial equality and the equal pay campaign.

Throughout her career, the midfielder has enjoyed success at both team and individual levels, winning two world championships with the USWNT and winning the Ballon d’Or in 2019.

Honored Rapinoe

“Megan Rapinoe, forward for the US women’s national team, will receive the nation’s highest civilian honor when the President of the United States bestows her with the Presidential Medal of Freedom at the White House on July 7,” a US Soccer press release confirmed Friday.

“The award recognizes individuals who have made exemplary contributions to the prosperity, values, or security of the United States, to world peace, or to other significant societal, public, or private endeavors.

“Rapinoe is the first female soccer player to receive this award and one of only six female athletes or coaches to be so honored, along with Simone Biles, 2022 Olympic gold-medal gymnast, tennis player and women’s rights pioneer, Billie Jean King, career of 1932 Summer Olympics and field gold medalist and professional golfer Babe Didrikson Zaharias, women’s basketball legend Pat Summitt and professional golfer Annika Sorenstam.

“Prior to this year, only 647 people have received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in the 59 years since the award was first presented by President John F. Kennedy in 1963.”

How did Rapinoe react to the award?

As the first soccer star to receive the medal, Rapinoe told reporters, “I hope I please everyone and make everyone proud. I hope everyone who’s ever played for this team or been to a camp or even received a call-up understands that this is for all of us, not just one player.”

She then ended the press conference by giving peace signs to the camera and shouting, “Guys, I’m going to the friggin’ White House.”

According to US Soccer, the veteran star initially thought she was the victim of a practical joke.

“The announcement was made earlier today, but Rapinoe was informed about a week ago while she was at training camp with the USWNT in Denver. Rapinoe was having lunch with her teammates between a weightlifting session and a workout at the Denver Broncos Training Center when the phone rang. The screen flashed “The White House,” the letter explains.

Megan Rapinoe Alex Morgan USWNT 2021

Getty

“Rapinoe, immediately thinking it was a robocall or that she might have been pranked by her teammates, showed the phone screen to teammate Kelley O’Hara.

“‘You’ll probably have to pick that up,’ said Washington, DC resident O’Hara. After three or four rings, she did.”

Rapinoe added: “In that moment, speaking to the President, I was and still am completely blown away.

“Just thinking of all the people who I believe deserve a part of this medal, from my family, to current and former teammates, all of the women on the US Women’s National Team throughout our history, to Colin Kaepernick, the three women, who founded Black Lives Matter – Opal, Alicia and Patrisse – to Marsha P, Sylvia and Billie Jean, the Williams sisters, of course my fiancee Sue Bird and so many more.

“I am humbled and truly honored to have been selected by President Biden for this award, and I feel as inspired and motivated as ever to continue this long history of fighting for the freedoms of all. To quote Emma Lazarus, ‘Until we are all free, none of us is free.’”

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