Bill Belichick will not be accepting the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
The Patriots coach was supposed to be honored by President Donald Trump in the White House on Thursday and be given the highest civilian award in the United States. Since being elected in 2016, Trump has honored athletes such as Bob Cousy, Gary Player, Tiger Woods and Mariano Rivera with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Belichick was scheduled to be next. However, controversy over last week’s violence at the U.S. Capitol prompted the longtime coach to decline the honor.
On Monday night, Belichick issued a statement, explaining his decision.
"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. 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. 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."
Belichick has had a relationship with Trump that dates back before 2016. Last month, he was appointed to the president's Council on Sports, Fitness & Nutrition for the second time. During Trump's campaign in 2016, Belichick wrote a letter of support to his friend and Trump read the letter at a campaign rally in New Hampshire.
Belichick and the Patriots visited Trump at the White House in 2017 after their Super Bowl LI victory. The team did not go again after beating the Los Angeles Rams in 2019.
Of course, a lot has transpired over the last four years.
Last year, Belichick, his players and the Patriots organization dedicated themselves to helping with social justice issues following the death of George Floyd and the civil unrest that followed. The Patriots will also donate $500,000 to local organizations through the Players Social Justice Fund. In his final press conference of the season, Belichick explained how the team met every week to discuss ongoing issues that are happening in this country. Every Monday, the team met to discuss social issues like racism.
“This was a very educational year from all the social justice meetings and things that we had in the spring, which carried over into the season,” Belichick said. "I think our team did a great job of that. We had great leadership from Jason [McCourty], Devin [McCourty], Matt [Slater] and many others — Brandon King, guys that are involved in just many, many different aspects of that. But, most importantly, just bringing the awareness within the team for each other and us getting to know each other and appreciate each other’s background, story and thoughts.
“And that was very, again, educational for me, as well as everybody else. I think we all benefitted from it, and again, things that we’ve done this year that will help us going forward. That would certainly fall into that category — probably at the top of that category.”