Tiger Woods is Latest in Long Line of Athletes to Receive Presidential Medal of Freedom

AUGUSTA, GEORGIA - APRIL 14: Tiger Woods (R) of the United States smiles after being awarded the Green Jacket by Masters champion Patrick Reed (L) during the Green Jacket Ceremony after winning the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club on April 14, 2019 in Augusta, Georgia. (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)

Professional golfer Tiger Woods has already become a part of a very elite company in his sport’s history by winning his fifth Masters, but when he receives his Presidential Medal of Freedom award, he will join a prestigious group of athletes to receive the same honor.

What is the Presidential Medal of Freedom?

The Presidential Medal of Freedom is an award given to civilians in the United States who make extraordinary contributions to US society. The sitting President of the United States along with a board known as the Distinguished Civilian Service Award board decide who will receive the award. The number of recipients can vary from year to year and many of the awards have been given to individuals posthumously.

The medal itself is a blue ribbon with a golden emblem that incorporates the blue, red and white color scheme. There is a prominent white star encircled by 13 smaller golden stars laid on a field of blue. A red pentagon is set behind the white star as well. Gold eagles sit between the points of the star and the names of the recipients are engraved on the backside of the medal.

Woods will join a long line of current and former professional athletes to have been given the award over the course of decades since President Lyndon B. Johnson first awarded it in 1963.

List of Athletes to Receive Presidential Medal of Freedom

The following amateur and professional athletes received the Presidential Medal of Freedom. They are listed alphabetically by first name with the President who awarded them the medal and the year in which they received it following their names.

Alan Page, President Donald Trump, 2018
Arnold Palmer, President George W. Bush, 2004
Arthur Ashe, President Bill Clinton, 1993
Babe Ruth, President Donald Trump, 2018
Bill Russell, President Barack Obama, 2010
Billie Jean King, President Barack Obama, 2009
Buck O’Neill, President George W. Bush, 2006
Charles Sifford, President Barack Obama, 2014
Dean Smith, President Barack Obama, 2013
Earl Blaik, President Ronald Reagan, 1986
Ernie Banks, President Barack Obama, 2013
Frank Robinson, President George W. Bush, 2005
Hank Aaron, President George W. Bush, 2002
Jack Kemp, President Barack Obama, 2009
Jack Nicklaus, President George W. Bush, 2005
Jackie Robinson, President Ronald Reagan, 1984
Jesse Owens, President Gerald Ford, 1976
Joe DiMaggio, President Gerald Ford, 1977
John Wooden, President George W. Bush, 2003
Kareem Abdul-Jabaar, President Barack Obama, 2016
Michael Jordan, President Barack Obama, 2016
Muhammad Ali, President George W. Bush, 2005
Pat Summit, President Barack Obama, 2012
Paul “Bear” Bryant, President Ronald Reagan, 1983
Roberto Clemente, President George W. Bush, 2003
Richard Petty, President George H.W. Bush, 1992
Robert J.H. Kiphuth, President Lyndon B. Johnson, 1963
Roger Staubach, President Donald Trump, 2018
Stan Musial, President Barack Obama, 2010
Ted Williams, President George H.W. Bush, 1991
Willie Mays, President Barack Obama, 2015
Yogi Berra, President Barack Obama, 2015

When Woods receives his medal, he will become the 33rd athlete and fourth professional golfer to earn the award, joining the likes of Nicklaus, Palmer, and Sifford. The rewards of achieving historic feats in the game of golf – and other sports – can be quite significant, and perhaps none is more notorious than the Presidential Medal of Freedom.