President Joe Biden wants to honor soccer world champion Megan Rapinoe and exceptional gymnast Simone Biles with the highest civilian honor in the USA.
Biden said the Medals of Freedom will be presented at the White House in Washington on July 7. The Presidential Medal of Freedom is the highest civilian award. According to the White House, it recognizes people who have made a significant contribution “to the security or national interest of the United States, to world peace, and to cultural or other significant public concerns”.
Star player Rapinoe had recently successfully led the fight for equality for US soccer players. The US Football Association and unions for the women’s and men’s national teams reached an historic contract in May that guarantees all players equal pay, including bonuses. Biden praised the 36-year-old as a “prominent advocate of equal pay”.
Record world champion Biles took part in the Olympic Games in Tokyo, made mental problems public there and therefore gave up several starts. The 25-year-old was one of hundreds of gymnasts and their parents who had sued former American team doctor Larry Nassar for sexual abuse. Since then, she has spoken openly about her emotional distress. Biden has now called her a “celebrity mental health advocate” who also advocates for victims of sexual assault.
Among the award winners is Oscar winner Denzel Washington. Democratic politician Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot in the head and seriously wounded in an assassination attempt in 2011 as an MP, is also to receive a medal. With the award, Biden wants to recognize her commitment to combating gun violence. Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, who lost his battle with cancer in 2011 at the age of 56, and Republican Senator John McCain, who died in 2018, received the award posthumously.