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.