New England Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick said on Monday that he will not be accepting the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Belichick says he was scheduled to receive the honor from President Donald Trump on Thursday.
He released a statement, tweeted out by ESPN NFL reporter Adam Schefter.
“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 says.
“Subsequently, the tragic events of last week occurred and the decision has been made not to move forward with the award.”
Belichick was referring to the Jan. 6 assault on the United States Capitol.
“Above all, I am an American citizen with great reverence for our nation’s values, freedom, and democracy,” Belichick says. “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 concludes.
Bill Belichick Has Long-Term Friendship With Trump
Bill Belichick would not have been the first sports icon President Trump has given the medal to during his tenure.
Trump and Belichick are friends, however. Back in 2016, he wrote the Presidential hopeful a letter that Trump read when he won the election.
“Congratulations on a tremendous campaign. You have dealt with an unbelievable slanted and negative media and have come out beautifully – beautifully,” Belichick wrote.
“You’ve proved to be the ultimate competitor and fighter. Your leadership is amazing. I have always had tremendous respect for you, but the toughness and perseverance you have displayed over the past year is remarkable. Hopefully, tomorrow’s election results will give the opportunity to make America great again. Best wishes for great results tomorrow. Bill”
The 68-year-old defends his letter, saying that he and Trump have been longtime friends.
“I’ve received a number of inquiries relative to a note I wrote to Donald on Monday,” Belichick said.
Belichick usually would be busy at this time of year with the Patriots in the NFL playoffs. This year is different, though, as his team finished 7-9 and out of playoff contention.