Bill Belichick, the veteran head coach of the New England Patriots, declined to accept the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Donald Trump on Monday, specifically citing last week’s deadly insurrection as the reason for his refusal.
“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 Monday. “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.”
The six-time Super Bowl-winning coach was among several Americans slated to receive the nation’s highest civilian honor in the waning days of the Trump presidency.
Belichick is a supporter of President Trump and donated to his campaign. Their respect is mutual; Trump has frequently spoken highly of the coach and Tom Brady, who was formerly the star quarterback of the Patriots.
Read More: Longtime Trump partner Deutsche Bank will no longer do business with him
However, after the insurrection at the nation’s Capitol, Belichick was besieged with calls to decline the award.
“Bill Belichick is one of the finest coaches in the NFL. I disagree with his politics, but this is so beyond politics. The dangerous behavior which resulted in deaths that was really instigated by Donald Trump last week alone should disqualify any person with any conscience of being with that man and accepting this medal,” Boston City Councilor Matt O’Malley told POLITICO in an interview.
After winning the Super Bowl in 2017, the Patriots visited the White House, although some players declined. In 2019, the entire team declined to attend, citing scheduling conflicts.
Read More: Twitter blocks 70,000 QAnon accounts after US Capitol riot
In his statement, Belichick wrote that the 2020 season, when the NFL took steps toward actively promoting social-justice progress, was one of the most rewarding experiences of his career.
“Continuing those efforts while remaining true to the people, team and country I love,” he said Monday, “outweigh the benefits of any individual award.”
Have you subscribed to theGrio’s “Dear Culture” podcast? Download our newest episodes now!
TheGrio is now on Apple TV, Amazon Fire and Roku. Download theGrio.com today!