New England Patriots head coach, Bill Belichick, decided not to accept the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Donald Trump, citing the deadly mob attack by Trump supporters on the U.S. Capitol last week, said on Monday.
“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. Subsequently, the tragic events of last week occurred and the decision has been made not to move forward with the award,” Belichick said in a statement.
“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,” he 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. Continuing those efforts while remaining true to the people, team and county I love outweigh the benefits of any individual award.”
The White House was not immediately available for comment.
Trump had planned to present Belichick with the Medal of Freedom in a ceremony at the White House on Thursday, an official from the White House confirmed to ABC News earlier on Monday.
News that Belichick was being lined up for the Medal of Freedom gained widespread negative reaction on social media.
“If this story about Bill Belichick accepting a Medal of Freedom from the disgraced occupant of the White House is true, he’s dead to me,” Bob Ryan, a Boston Globe sports columnist emeritus, wrote on Twitter. “Say it ain’t so, Bill.”
In 2016, Trump read a glowing letter from Belichick while on the campaign trail, in which the coach praised his courage and leadership.
It was criticized by some fans but did not seem to affect Belichick’s standing with players in the locker room. Robert Kraft, owner of the Patriots, is also friendly with Trump.
The U.S. president has had a long-running fight with the National Football League over players kneeling during the national anthem, a gesture that was first adopted by some Black players to protest against racial discrimination in the criminal justice system.
Trump called on the league to ban players from kneeling in protest. take a look at our latest sports news about, UFC fighter Irwin Rivera Arrested on Attempted Murder Charges here!
In the Patriots’ home state of Massachusetts, Trump received only 32% of votes cast in the presidential election in November.
Joe Biden is set to be sworn in as the 46th U.S. president on Jan. 20.
“Bill is on the spot here,” Dan Shaughnessy, a long-time sports columnist for the Boston Globe, said before Belichick’s statement. “If he receives the award, it makes things difficult for him in his locker room and in this community.”
With the Patriots slumping to their first losing season since 2000, Belichick needs to build good relations with players and prospective free agents as they look to improve their roster.
Belichick’s teams have won a record six Super Bowl championships, but this season the Patriots posted a 7-9 record without star quarterback Tom Brady, who is gunning for a seventh win with his new team, Tampa Bay Buccaneers.