Soccer player and LBGTQ activist Megan Rapinoe was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom along with 16 others in a ceremony Thursday at the White House.
Rapinoe, who turned 37 on Tuesday, flashed a big grin as Biden put the medal — the nation’s highest civilian honor — around her neck. Rapinoe wore a white suit with the initials “BG” and a flower embroidered on the upper right lapel in honor of basketball player Brittney Griner, who has been held in Russia since Feb. 17. Like Rapinoe, Griner is also LGBTQ.
“The most important part of today,” Rapinoe wrote on an Instagram story. “BG is being used as a political pawn and we need to bring her home immediately. This plea doesn’t change that @potus needs to and is working hard to get her home.”
Rapinoe, a two-time World Cup champion and Olympic gold medalist who now captains OL Reign of the National Women’s Soccer League, is the first soccer player to win the medal of freedom. She is the third LGBTQ athlete so honored, joining Billie Jean King in 2009 and Babe Didrikson Zaharias in 2021.
As the Los Angeles Times noted about Rapinoe:
She knelt against racism and stood for LGBTQ rights. She has campaigned against gender discrimination and in favor of equal pay, using both the court of public opinion and the court of law.
She even joined her teammates in suing their boss, the U.S. Soccer Federation, a suit that led to a historic revenue-sharing agreement six weeks ago that will see the men’s and women’s national teams compensated equally.
Standing up and speaking out has never been a problem for Rapinoe. Soccer is what she does, but it isn’t who she is.
“It’s literally the point of life to be able to walk in your truth and be who you are,” she said. “I just see this [award] as a validation of all the things that I’ve stood for, not a validation of me.
“My playing career has given me the opportunity to talk about all of these things that really, truly do matter. It’s about validating this push for equality and rights and freedoms for everyone.”
Rapinoe is the perfect example of an elite athlete using the platform their sport provides to push for social change. And another reminder of the power of being out as an LGBTQ athlete.