Belichick declining the Presidential Medal of Freedom is the right play call

By Brendan Beauregard, Assistant Sports Editor

Embed from Getty Images

New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick will not accept the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Donald Trump after he incited the storming of the U.S Capitol on Jan. 6. The White House announced on Jan. 10 that Belichick would receive the legendary medal from the President.

The Presidential Medal of Freedom is considered the highest accolade a citizen could receive. It is awarded by the President to those 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,” according to the White House

Given the recent rampage on the Capitol and never-ending controversy surrounding President Trump, Belichick made a smart audible in turning the award down in a statement released on Tuesday.

“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. “Subsequently, the tragic events of last week occurred and the decision has been made not to move forward with the award.”

The longtime Patriots coach helped build arguably the most stable organization in NFL history, which prides itself on doing its job day in and day out. Accepting an award from possibly the most controversial administration in the history of the U.S. Presidency would not paint a good picture for what the organization is trying to achieve off the field.

“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,” Belichick said. “Continuing those efforts while remaining true to the people, team and country I love outweigh the benefits of any individual award.”

New England issued a statement on Jan. 3 regarding what Patriots personnel discussed and had done throughout the 2020 NFL regular season. This was set in motion after events such as the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and worldwide Black Lives Matter protests occurred before the season began in September.

“Each Monday throughout this season, we held social justice meetings as a team in order to continue important dialogues that began over the summer,” the statement said. “We met virtually with leaders of different local organizations and also with system-impacted individuals, all of whom are working in a variety of facets, including police and community relations, criminal justice reform, food insecurity, education and healthcare.”

New England special teamer and captain Matthew Slater praised Belichick’s work with the team in a June 5 interview with NBC Sports, where he discussed the Patriots coach stepping up during uneasy times.

“I do think that it’s important, as he has done, to hear from his players and understand that, ‘Hey, at the end of the day, football is temporary,’” Slater said. “What we’re left with is who we are as people, the values and beliefs and our experiences, and the results of those experiences. That’s what we’re going to be left with.”  

Regardless of Belichick’s decision to reject the medal, it’s no surprise President Trump wanted to award the longtime Patriots coach the medal. 

Belichick has a history with the President. Trump read a letter from Belichick supporting him during a campaign rally in New Hampshire in November 2016 preceding that year’s presidential election. 

“[Belichick] wrote me the most beautiful letter,” Trump said during the rally. 

Belichick commented about the letter in a Patriots press conference on Nov. 9, 2016. 

“Our friendship goes back many years, and I think that anybody who’s spent more than five minutes with me knows I’m not a political person,Belichick said.

“A couple of weeks ago we had Secretary of State [John] Kerry in our locker room. So he’s another friend of mine. I can’t imagine two people with more different political views than those two, but to me, friendship and loyalty is just about that. It’s not about political or religious views,” said Belichick.

Another reason for Trump’s choice is the majority of his choices for the Medal of Freedom have come from sports backgrounds. Sports figures such as golfer Tiger Woods, retired football coach Lou Holtz, and retired baseball pitcher Mariano Rivera have all received the honor from the President.

While the two may be friends, Belichick and Trump are opposites. Trump stirs the pot and enjoys the spotlight, whereas Belichick would rather continue working on improving his team on and off the field than do another press conference.

Patriots fans might have loved seeing their coach be honored with the most prestigious award anyone could receive from the President. But I believe Patriots fans know how their coach operates, and seeing Belichick say “no, thanks” during a contentious time is another example of the Patriots coach making the right adjustments.