The six-time Super Bowl-winning coach was expected to accept the nation's “highest civilian honor” at a ceremony at the White House on Thursday. However, Belichick has declined the invitation a week after a mob of Trump supporters seized the U.S. Capitol Building.
“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 Patriots coach said in a statement, per Adam Schefter of ESPN. “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.”
Belichick also cited the fight for racial justice and equality as a reason behind his decision.
“I know I also represent my family and the New England Patriots team. 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 country I love outweigh the benefits of any individual award,” he added.
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
In 2016, Bill Belichick acknowledged writing a deeply strange letter to the then-candidate in the days before the election, praising Trump for his leadership. Patriots owner Robert Kraft (and Tom Brady) are well-known friends of the president.
The disturbing incident at the Capitol has resulted in newfound calls for Trump's removal from office.
One day after the horrifying chaos last Wednesday—which resulted in five deaths—Trump continued his tradition of giving athletes the Medal of Freedom, as he honored golfers Gary Player and Annika Sorenstam.
Previously, Trump has bestowed Tiger Woods, Babe Ruth, Bob Cousy, Jerry West, Roger Staubach, Mariano Rivera, and Lou Holtz with the medal, among others.