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Commentary: Honoring female sports stars is important; recognizing the unsung heroes is crucial

Megan Rapinoe and Simone Biles each received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor for a civilian, but they didn't accomplish their goals alone.

Megan Rapinoe and Simone Biles were two of the civilian recipients for this year's Presidential Medal of Freedom. It's significant, really, for a few reasons.

Sports figures are no longer just athletic robots, programmed to perform at the highest level for your entertainment. Athletes are advocates, they're activists, they're real humans, and we need humanity more than ever right now.

ATLANTA, GA - SEPTEMBER 18: Megan Rapinoe #15 kneels during the National Anthem prior to the match between the United States and the Netherlands at Georgia Dome on September 18, 2016 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Megan Rapinoe led two major movements over the last three years, a black lives matter protest before each match, originally inspired years earlier by Collin Kaepernick kneeling for the anthem, and was also instrumental in earning equal pay for the US Women's National Team.

RELATED: US women soccer players reach landmark $24 million settlement with Soccer Federation

Simone Biles walked away from the world's biggest stage to shed light on the darker conversation of mental health, all while being thrust into the spotlight of a sexual assault trial.

RELATED: Simone Biles, other women seek $1 billion-plus from FBI over Larry Nassar

RELATED: 'I'm more than my medals': Simone Biles keeping the door open on 2024 Olympics

It's crucial that we honor those who walk tallest in the most challenging moments, but it's also important to consider those who are behind the curtains lifting them up.

Megan could not have accomplished equal pay without the rest of her team or without standing on the shoulders of the 1999 National Team. 

Next to Simone on the stands was Maggie Nichols, or Athlete "A" as she was known in the trial, who never even made it to the Olympics due to rampant abuse from team doctor Larry Nassar.

Credit: AP
FILE - United States gymnasts from left, Simone Biles, McKayla Maroney, Aly Raisman and Maggie Nichols, arrive to testify during a Senate Judiciary hearing about the Inspector General's report on the FBI's handling of the Larry Nassar investigation on Capitol Hill, Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2021, in Washington. Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles and dozens of other women who say they were sexually assaulted by Larry Nassar are seeking more than $1 billion from the FBI for failing to stop the now convicted sports doctor when the agency first received allegations against him, lawyers said Wednesday, June 8, 2022. (Saul Loeb/Pool via AP, File)

Behind every great woman--are more great women. Sometimes they're recognized with an award, but more times than not, they're just there, cheering and supporting until the bigger fight has been won.

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