New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick announced Monday that he has declined to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom, citing the “tragic events” of the past week.
“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 wrote in a statement posted by ESPN reporter Adam Schefter.
“Subsequently, the tragic events of last week occurred and the decision has been made not to move forward with the award.”
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
The Presidential Medal of Freedom was established by President John F. Kennedy in 1963 and is awarded to individuals “who have made exceptional contributions to the security or national interests of America, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.”
In his statement, Belichick noted that he has “great reverence for our nation’s values, freedom and democracy,” but he also represents both his family and his 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,” he wrote.
“Continuing those efforts while remaining true to the people, team and country I love outweigh the benefits of an individual award.”
Belichick’s decision not to receive the award comes following the incursion of the Capitol last week that has led many Democratic lawmakers calling for Trump’s removal from office.
President Donald Trump had planned to award Belichick the Medal of Freedom on Thursday, a White House official told CBS News.
Massachusetts Rep. Jim McGovern urged Belichick to refuse the honor in an interview with CNN Monday.
“Bill Belichick should do the right thing and say, ‘no thanks,'” McGovern said.
Trump and the Patriots coach have previously been on good terms and Belichick was recently re-appointed to Trump’s Council on Sports, Fitness and Nutrition in December, WBZ-TV reported.
“You have dealt with an unbelievable slanted and negative media, and have come out beautifully – beautifully,” Trump read from the letter.
“You’ve proved to be the ultimate competitor ad fighter. Your leadership is amazing.”
Belichick added, “I have always had tremendous respect for you, but the toughness and perseverance you have displayed over the past year is remarkable.”
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