New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick is turning down the honor of a lifetime because of the “tragic events of last week.”
A man considered to be one of the NFL’s greatest coaches is turning down an opportunity being given by President Donald Trump and will not be accepting the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Considered by Trump to be a “very good friend,” the 68-year-old head coach of the New England Patriots announced Monday that he will decline the nation’s highest civilian honor.
Belichick cited the events that transpired last week at the U.S. Capitol and determined that he would be “remaining true to the people, team, and country I love” by snubbing the offer by the president.
“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,” Belichick said in a statement on Monday.
“Subsequently, the tragic events of last week occurred and the decision has been made not to move forward with the award,” Belichick, who was reappointed by Trump last month to the President’s Council on Sports, Fitness, and Nutrition, added.
“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 coach, who has led the Patriots to six Super Bowl championships, continued.
“One of the most rewarding things in my professional career took place in 2020 when, through the great leadership within our team, conversations about social justice, equality, and human rights moved to the forefront and became actions,” Belichick said.
Patriots’ HC Bill Belichick will not be traveling to Washington nor accepting the Presidential Medal of Freedom, he announced today. pic.twitter.com/uvLLigFlHU
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) January 12, 2021
“Continuing those efforts while remaining true to the people, team, and country I love outweigh the benefits of any individual award,” he concluded.
Belichick, who just had his 21st season as Patriots coach, gave Trump a Patriots jersey and a helmet when he and the team were welcomed to the White House in 2017 after their Super Bowl victory over the Atlanta Falcons. Patriots’ owner Bob Kraft has been a vocal Trump supporter and is also considered a friend.
“He’s a very good friend of mine. He’s a winner,” Trump told Hugh Hewitt last August during a radio interview. “You know, if I ever had a military battle, I’d call up Belichick and say what do you think? What do you think? Give me a couple of ideas.”
“I am flattered by that,” Belichick responded at the time.. “But, I’ll just stick to coaching football.”
Back in 2016, the coach dropped Trump an encouraging note ahead of the election that would make him president.
“Congratulations on a tremendous campaign. You have dealt with an unbelievable slanted and negative media, and have come out beautifully – beautifully,” he reportedly wrote. “You’ve proved to be the ultimate competitor and fighter. Your leadership is amazing. I have always had tremendous respect for you, but the toughness and perseverance you have displayed over the past year is remarkable.”
Following last week’s violent events at the U.S. Capitol, the president has gone on to award the Medal of Freedom to pro golfers Annika Sorenstam, Gary Player, and the late Babe Zaharias. Trump awarded the medal to GOP California Rep. Devin Nunes last week and on Monday, to Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio in a closed-door ceremony.