New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick declined to accept the Presidential Medal of Freedom on Monday after last week’s deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.
In a statement, Belichick said he was flattered to be offered the medal, the country’s highest civilian honor, but he said the “tragic events of last week occurred and the decision has been made not to move forward with the award.”
Belichick, who has coached the Patriots for 21 years and has won six Super Bowls, said that “above all, I am an American citizen with great reverence for our nation’s values, freedom and democracy.”
He said “conversations” and “actions” about “social justice, equality and human rights” earlier in the season were among the most rewarding in his career.
“Continuing those efforts while remaining true to the people, team and country I love outweigh the benefits of any individual award,” he said.
Earlier Monday, Trump awarded the medal to Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, an ally who helped defend him against special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian election interference.
Last week, another Trump ally, Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., was also given the award, and on Thursday, the day after the riot, he presented the medal to three pro golfers.
The medal, established in 1963, is given to people 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.
The Professional Golfers’ Association of America said Sunday that its 2022 championship would not be held at Trump’s golf course in Bedminster, New Jersey.
Although he describes himself as apolitical, Belichick has waded into politics on occasion.
The architect of the Patriots dynasty wrote Trump a letter of support that the candidate read aloud the night before the 2016 election at a rally in New Hampshire, a bastion of the team’s fandom.
Although Trump said the letter offered “best wishes for great results” on election day and “the opportunity to make America great again,” Belichick said it was it was merely to support a friend.
Belichick also wore an Armenian flag pin to the White House in 2015 when the team celebrated its fourth Super Bowl victory — believed to be a sign of support for the team’s director of football, Berj Najarian, who is of Armenian descent. Last month, Belichick called on the U.S. government to take action against Turkey and Azerbaijan for “unprovoked and violent attacks against Armenians.”
Tim Stelloh is a reporter for NBC News based in California.