The President of the United States of America presents the recipients with the highest civilian honor, not only for their athletic excellence but also for their cultural and charitable contributions to society.
Here are 10 sporting stars to have received the award:
His bravery and superior Olympic performances proved to overshadow the racial stigma that was present at the time.
The baseball legend won nine World Series with the New York Yankees and was a staple in American culture, known for his large contributions to philanthropy. In 1992, he opened the Joe DiMaggio children’s hospital and raised millions of dollars for charity.
He was the first black athlete in Major League Baseball, playing with the Brooklyn Dodgers and winning a World Series in 1955.
Robinson was able to break the color barrier in the sport while enduring a culture of racism with class and dignity. He changed baseball forever.
Most known for being the first African American to win Wimbledon and the U.S Open in men’s singles.
He was also the first Black American to be ranked as the number one tennis player in the world. Ashe was famous for championing many causes and raised AIDS awareness, which he battled with in his lifetime.
The late golfing legend is considered one of the greatest-ever for his work on and off of the course.
Aside from winning all the major tournaments, Arnold had many charities and hospitals he founded for women and children. The Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children is a world-class facility.
One of the most beloved athletes in America, Nicklaus is not only a sporting legend but he established Nicklaus Health Care Foundation and the Nicklaus Children’s Hospital.
Simply known as ‘The Greatest’. The heavyweight Champion was most known for his stance against the Vietnam war and refusing induction into the military for religious purposes. The boxing legend spent most of his life after boxing in philanthropy and raising awareness of Parkinson’s Disease, an illness he had to battle with for many years.
Popular for breaking down barriers in tennis, She was the number one ranked women’s tennis player in 1968. Off the field, King fought for equal pay rights for women, and has been an activist for most of her life, inspiring many female athletes all around the globe.
KAREEM ABDUL JABBAR
The Hall of Famer Basketball star is the all-time leading scorer in NBA history and a six-time champion. Abdul Jabbar is also a dedicated philanthropist and book author.
He also took social matters seriously and was one of many players during the 1960s that stood by Muhammad Ali in his conscientious objection to the war.
Considered the greatest basketball player to ever live, Jordan enjoyed a stellar career rich in championships and MVP awards.
The basketball legend also had a huge impact on popular culture, from his Air Jordan brand, to the famous sneakers and the tongue wag.
He also is majority owner of the Charlotte Bobcats. Business aside, the 53-year-old is very active in the community and charitable causes.