Despite their longtime friendship and multiple championship White House visits, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick has declined to accept the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Trump.
Belichick made the announcement on Monday.
“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,” the coach said in a statement.
“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 county I love outweigh the benefits of any individual award.”
Belichick and Trump have been friends for years. A friendship that came into focus after Trump read a letter that Belichick wrote to him to New Hampshire voters on the eve of his election victory in 2016.
“Congratulations on a tremendous campaign. You have dealt with an unbelievable slanted and negative media, and have come out beautifully – beautifully,” Trump read. “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.”
Belichick’s former quarterback, Tom Brady, is also a friend of the president.
“Recently, sports figures Gary Player, Annika Sorenstam, Babe Zaharias, Roger Staubach and Don Gable received the Presidential Medal of Freedom,” Fox News reports.
Trump made headlines in August when he said that, if he was in a military battle, he would seek advice from Belichick.