Bill Belichick Refuses Presidential Medal of Freedom

The New England Patriots coach lived up to the team nickname.

New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick has been a noteworthy supporter of President Trump, who was set to award the 6-time Super Bowl champion* the nation’s highest civilian honor. In light of last week’s events, he has respectfully declined.

NPR (“Patriots Coach Belichick Refuses Presidential Medal After Violence At Capitol”):

New England Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick, who had been expected to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom later this week, has instead declined the honor, citing last week’s violence at the Capitol.

“Recently I was offered the opportunity to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which I was flattered by out of respect for what the honor represents and admiration for prior recipients,” the six-time Super Bowl legend and early Trump supporter said in a statement reported the National Football League late Monday. “Subsequently, the tragic events of last week occurred and the decision has been made not to move forward with the award.”

“Above all, I am an American citizen with great reverence for our nation’s values, freedom and democracy. I know I also represent my family and the New England Patriots team,” the statement read.

The president announced he would give Belichick the nation’s highest civilian honor this week, days after pro-Trump protesters stormed into the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C.

Trump had been expected to bestow the honor at the White House on Thursday.

Belichick and the president have known each other for years. Trump, at a rally before his 2016 election victory, even read a “letter of praise” from the New England head coach.

Belichick’s decision to decline the honor at the White House is yet another blow to an increasingly isolated Trump, who has seen a wave of top advisors leave in recent days, also citing the violence.

WSJ (“Bill Belichick Says He Won’t Accept Medal of Freedom From Trump After Capitol Riot“) adds:

News of the offer to Belichick only emerged Sunday, prompting questions over whether the most accomplished coach in football history would stand by his friend amid the controversy.

Although Belichick’s statement did not mention Trump by name, the decision amounts to a sharp rebuke of a president who has faced calls from Democratic lawmakers, and some Republicans, to be removed from office. His decision comes just days after Trump awarded the medal to Gary Player and Annika Sorenstam, two of the best golfers of all time. Player and Sorenstam have faced criticism for associating with the president in the wake of recent events.

Belichick said he knows he also represents his family and the Patriots and added that one of the most rewarding parts of his professional career has been the team’s social justice efforts over the last year. “Continuing those efforts while remaining true to the people, team and country I love outweigh the benefits of any individual award,” his statement said.

Belichick’s pivot came as the pockets of the sports world that had remained supportive of Trump raced to dissociate themselves from the president during his final days in office. Late Sunday, the PGA of America pulled the prestigious 2022 PGA Championship from the Trump National Golf Club Bedminster, with the organization’s president Jim Richerson saying: “It has become clear that conducting the PGA Championship at Trump Bedminster would be detrimental to the PGA of America brand.”

While one presumes the League put some pressure on Belichick to decline the honor, I take him at his word that he is indeed appalled at what happened last week and Trump’s role in it.

I don’t know how much of a sports fan Biden is but there has been an upsurge in recent years to award the Medal of Freedom to great athletes and coaches. I wouldn’t be surprised if Belichick didn’t get it, anyway, without the taint of having Trump hang it around his neck.


*Eight if you count the two he won as defensive coordinator of the Bill Parcells-led New York Giants.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. mattbernius says:

    As an adopted Western NY’er and a long-suffering Bills fan, I give Belichick all the respect he deserves for doing this.

    (And I look forward to this dark period in the history of our nation being over so I can get back to hating him for everything else).

  2. Slugger says:

    This is the future of Trumpism. Soon Fox news will remember that Trump was a Democrat for many years. If Melania splits, even Eastern European models will refuse to date him.

  3. CSK says:

    Trump and the Trumpkins have long since dumped Fox.

  4. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    Trump gave one to Art Laffer, who is almost single-handedly responsible for the demise of the middle-class.
    He gave one to one of the dumbest members of Congress, a guy who sued a cow.
    And he also gave one to Gym Jordan, who is credibly accused of looking the other way while young men in his charge were molested.
    So you can’t really blame Belichick for not wanting part of that.

  5. Jon says:

    the tragic events of last week occurred and the decision has been made not to move forward with the award

    Love that passive voice.

    And what a terrible world we live in that I find myself forced to agree with a non-football move by Bill.

  6. Kathy says:

    He kind of deserves the award because he refused to take it from Trump the Weak.

  7. MarkedMan says:

    I take him at his word

    I think you are giving this clown way too much credit. He embraced this racist POS president at every opportunity, and appeared perfectly willing to accept his little award until the implications were made clear to him. I have no doubt that if Bellichick coached for a team in the Confederacy such as the Titans or the Dolphins, he would be at the White House this minute. Unfortunately for his ego he coaches in a town that understands what real patriotism is about.

  8. ImProPer says:


    I was just saying this to my Trump supporting coworkers. It’s meaning has been diminished with all the celebrity figures that have gotten it, simply for being successful in their craft. While not a fan of the Patriots, I am today, a fan of the man, who saw his ego as less important than the contents of that letter.

  9. Raoul says:

    I wonder how Gary Player and Annika Sorenstram now feel- two pompous ingrates.

  10. CSK says:

    Out of 26 MoFs Trump has awarded since 2017, 16 of them have been to sports figures.

  11. Slugger says:

    I looked at the list. Trump gave one to Elvis! The King was dead of course, but it does show that no one is totally 100% bad.

  12. Liberal Capitalist says:


    He kind of deserves the award because he refused to take it from Trump the Weak.

    For a moment there, I read that as “Trump of the week”.

    Not so funny, though, as he HAS been a different person every week of his presidency. and that is why we, as a country, suffer PTSD.

  13. CSK says:

    @Liberal Capitalist:
    Oh, I think Trump’s been pretty reliably a malevolent churl from week to week.