Bill Belichick, one of the National Football League (NFL) top coaches, refused to accept the United States Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, citing last week’s deadly riot in Capitol Hill.
The six-time Super Bowl-winning coach said he was flattered at the opportunity to receive the medal, but changed his mind after supporters of President Donald Trump stormed the Capitol – the seat of the US Congress – ransacking offices and leaving threatening messages.
“Above all, I am an American citizen with great reverence for the values, freedom and democracy of our nation,” Belichick said in a statement on Monday, adding that he represented his family and the United Nations team. New England Patriots.
The coach said he will continue his efforts working on social justice, equality and human rights “while remaining loyal to the people, the team and the country that I love wins. on the benefits of any individual award ”.
A White House official said on Sunday, four days after the riots, that Trump would award the medal to Belichick – as part of a wave of late presentations that also included golfers Annika Sorenstam, Gary Player and the late Babe Zaharias.
Sorenstam and Player accepted their awards at a private ceremony the day after the violence in Washington, DC.
The move by Belichick, who has backed Trump in the past, is another blow to an increasingly isolated US president. Several of his main advisers have resigned in recent days, citing Wednesday’s violence.
News that Belichick had turned down the Medal of Freedom sparked a positive reaction on social media.
“Congratulations, Bill Belichick. You did the right thing, ”Boston Globe Sports Columnist Bob Ryan wrote on Twitter.
Congratulations, Bill Belichick. You did the right thing.
– Bob Ryan (@GlobeBobRyan) January 12, 2021
Massachusetts Congressman Jim McGovern, who previously urged Belichick to decline the award, hailed the move.
“This president is not fit for office, so anything he gives to anyone doesn’t make sense. Thank you, Coach Belichick, for rejecting Trump’s award, ”the senator said on Twitter.
This president is not fit for office, so anything he gives to anyone makes no sense.
Thanks, Coach Belichick, for rejecting Trump’s award. https://t.co/qyxWJT5VAd
– Representative Jim McGovern (@RepMcGovern) January 12, 2021
Although he describes himself as apolitical, Belichick has sometimes entered politics.
In 2016, Trump read a letter of praise from Belichick while on the campaign trail, in which the coach praised his courage and leadership. Although Trump said the letter offered “his best wishes for great results” on election day and “the opportunity to make America great again,” Belichick said it was simply to support a friend .
The coach’s support for Trump has been criticized by some fans but has not appeared to affect his standing with players in the locker room. Robert Kraft, owner of the Patriots, is also friendly with Trump.
The US president has had a long-standing fight with the NFL over kneeling players during the national anthem, a move that was first adopted by some black players to protest racial disparities in the criminal justice system. Trump called on the league to ban players from “hitting the knee” in protest.
Strained relations between the team’s players and the president have surfaced on several occasions, including in 2019 when the Patriots did not attend a usual White House event to celebrate the Super Bowl victory, citing conflicting schedules.
Following the death of George Floyd this summer, Patriots players praised Belichick for providing an open forum for them to voice their feelings about race and social injustice in America.