Megan Rapinoe pays beautiful tribute to Brittney Griner at Presidential Medal of Freedom ceremony

in the image on the left, Megan Rapinoe shows off her white jacket which is embroidered with a rose and the initials 'BG' in honour of detained basketball star Brittney Griner. In the image on the right, Rapinoe wears the white jacket as president Joe Biden puts the presidential medal of freedom around her neck during a ceremony at the White House

Megan Rapinoe wore a suit honouring detained basketball icon Brittney Griner as she accepted the Presidential Medal of Freedom. 

The two-time World Cup champion received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from president Joe Biden in a ceremony at the White House Thursday (7 July). She is the first soccer player to receive the honour, and she – alongside Olympic gold medallist Simone Biles – is among the few female athletes in history to get the accolade. 

Rapinoe paid a beautiful tribute to Griner, who has been detained in Russia since February, with her choice of outfit. The queer icon wore a cream suit with Griner’s initials and a flower embroidered on the label. 

Rapinoe shared an image of the heartfelt detail on her Instagram story, saying it was the “most important part of today”. 

“BG [Brittney Griner] We Love You,” she added. 

Megan Rapinoe wears a white shirt and a cream blazer with Brittney Griner's initials (BG) embroidered on the label alongside a flower. Text on the image reads 'the most important part of today' and 'BG We Love You'

Megan Rapinoe said her tribute to Brittney Griner, raising awareness of her detainment in Russia, was the “most important part” of receiving the presidential medal of freedom. (Instagram/@mrapinoe)

Just hours before, Griner pleaded guilty to drug charges in Russia, but she emphasised that there was “no intent” as she “didn’t want to break the law”.

The US Women’s National Soccer Team co-captain also spoke out on her Instagram story after news of Griner’s plea broke. Megan Rapinoe wrote the Phoenix Mercury player is “being used as a political pawn” and called for increased efforts to “bring her home immediately”. 

“This plea doesn’t change that @potus needs to and is working hard to get her home,” she wrote. “From what I understand she had to plea to keep the process of getting her home asap in motion.”

Rapinoe continued: “BG we are with you.”

An Instagram post from Megan Rapinoe contains a picture of Brittney Griner. Text on the image reads: 'BG is a being used as a political pawn and we need to bring her hom immediately. The plea doesn't change that @potus [President of the United States] needs to and is working hard to get her home. From what I understand she had to plea to keep the process of getting her home asap in motion. BG we are with you' alongside a red heart emoji and a praying hands emoji

Megan Rapinoe said Brittney Griner is being used as a “political pawn” and called for her safe return home. (Instagram/@mrapinoe)

Griner was imprisoned in Russia for over four months after authorities at an airport near Moscow allegedly found vape canisters containing oil derived from cannabis in her luggage. 

The WNBA star will next appear in court on 14 July, and she could face up to 10 years in prison if convicted. 

Griner’s legal team said the basketball player “decided to take full responsibility” with her guilty plea. The team hoped the court would consider the “nature” of Griner’s case, the “insignificant amount of the substance”, her personality and “history of positive contributions to global and Russian sport” by handing down a less “severe sentence”. 

Megan Rapinoe told the Los Angeles Times that she initially thought the call from Biden to inform her of the honour was a prank. She recalled showing her phone’s caller ID – which revealed she was getting a call from the White House – to her teammate Kelley O’Hara, who convinced her to pick up the call. 

When she picked up the phone, she said a phone at the other end asked her to “please hold for the president of the United States”. 

Rapinoe said receiving the nation’s highest civilian honour is a “validation” of things that she’s stood for including LGBTQ+ rightsracial justice and gender pay equality.

“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.”

She continued: “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.”

Megan Rapinoe was among 17 people selected by Biden to receive the presidential medal of freedom this year. Other 2022 recipients included actor Denzel Washington, former Arizona state representative Gabrielle Giffords and civil rights advocate Raúl Yzaguirre.