New England Patriots Coach Bill Belichick said that he's declining the Presidential Medal of Freedom because of the "tragic events" at the U.S. Capitol.
"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 released Monday.
"Subsequently, the tragic events of last week occurred and the decision has been made not to move forward with the award," he added. "Above all, I am an American citizen with great reverence for our nation's values, freedom and democracy. 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," Belichick said. "Continuing those efforts while remaining true to the people, team and country I love outweigh the benefits of any individual award."
President Donald Trump on Thursday bestowed the honor on Hall of Fame golfers Annika Sorenstam and Gary Player, as well as the late Olympian Babe Didrikson Zaharias.
Belichick, 68, was to have had his name added to a list including Babe Ruth, Roger Staubach, Jerry West and Tiger Woods among the legendary sports figures who’ve been awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
The president once called the former New York Giants defensive coordinator “a very good friend of mine” and someone he’d call for ideas “if I ever had a military battle.”
John F. Kennedy established the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1963 for people who’ve made exceptional contributions to national security interests, promoted world peace or achieved some significance in their lives.
The veteran coach is coming off a tumultuous stretch that began when free agent quarterback Tom Brady left the Patriots for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who advanced in the NFL playoffs Saturday night.
The Pats, who’ve been coached by Belichick the past 21 years, finished out of the playoffs for the first time in the past 12 seasons.
Belichick – who has served on the President's Council on Sports, Fitness and Nutrition since 2018 -- has led the Patriots to 17 AFC East division titles, 13 appearances in the AFC Championship Game and six wins in nine Super Bowl appearances.
He also won two Super Bowls as the Giants’ defensive coach for head coach Bill Parcells.
In a 2007 incident dubbed "Spygate," the NFL caught a Pats’ video assistant taping the New York Jets’ defensive signals from the sidelines. Belichick accepted responsibility and apologized to the organization and New England fans.
The NFL fined him $500,000 – the largest in the league’s history at the time – while fining the team $250,000 and stripping its first-round draft pick in 2008.
He went out and won Coach of the Year honors by leading the Patriots to a perfect 16–0 regular season record before they were upended in the Super Bowl by the Giants.
Politico broke the news: Trump to award Bill Belichick the Medal of Freedom amid House impeachment push
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