New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick has turned down President Trump‘s offer of the Medal of Freedom, citing the “tragic events” of the deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol last week.
Mr. Belichick was to visit the White House on Thursday to receive the nation’s highest civilian award. He said in a statement he was “flattered,” but won’t be coming to Washington.
“The tragic events of last week occurred, and the decision has been made not to move forward with the award,” he said on Monday night. “Above all, I am an American citizen with great reverence for our nation’s values, freedom and democracy.”
He said he represents his team and his family, and he referred to the NFL’s controversy about racial justice in the past year.
“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,” Mr. Belichick said. “Continuing those efforts, while remaining true to the people, team and country I love, outweigh the benefits of any individual award.”
Mr. Belichick is the only football coach to win the Super Bowl six times. The team’s owner, Robert Kraft, is a friend of the president.
Trump campaign adviser Boris Epshteyn tweeted about the coach’s decision, “Probably because Belichick is embarrassed at how horrible the @Patriots are without [quarterback] @TomBrady.”
The president has given the medal to several sports figures and political allies in recent days, as he nears the end of his term.