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Bill Belichick turns down Presidential Medal of Freedom from Donald Trump, cites Capitol attack

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New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick won’t accept the Presidential Medal of Freedom he was scheduled to receive from President Donald Trump, he announced Monday.

News broke on Sunday that Trump intended to bestow the honor on the longtime NFL coach. The news was met with criticism in the aftermath of last week’s attack on the U.S. Capitol by a pro-Trump mob.

Belichick cited the attack in his announcement.

“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 wrote. “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. 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 country I love outweigh the benefits of any individual award.”

President Donald Trump listens as New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick speaks during a ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, April 19, 2017, where the president honored the Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots for their Super Bowl LI victory. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Bill Belichick cited "great reverence for our nation's values" in turning down the president. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Pressure mounted on Belichick to turn Trump down

Belichick was reportedly scheduled to receive the medal in a Thursday ceremony. Pressure to turn down the honor came from as high as U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern, a Democrat representing Massachusetts.

"Belichick should do the right thing and say, no, thanks,” McGovern told CNN on Monday, adding that accepting the medal would be “disgraceful.

Golfers accepted award last week

Trump has awarded the medal 25 times since taking office, including 14 times to sports figures. Golfers Gary Player and Annika Sorenstam drew criticism last week for accepting the medal in a closed-door ceremony less than 24 hours after the attack on the Capitol that left five dead and sent senators and representatives fleeing for safety.

Trump urging his supporters to march on the Capitol in a speech before the attack that ransacked the institution. The horde invaded the Capitol in an effort to subvert the electoral college vote certifying President-elect Joe Biden as Trump’s successor. Biden will be sworn into office on Jan. 20.

The attack has inspired calls for Trump to resign or be removed from office. Democrats in Congress unveiled articles of impeachment against Trump on Monday.

Trump has also awarded the honor to political allies and right-wing extremists Rush Limbaugh, Rep. Jim Jordan and Rep. Devin Nunes, decisions considered by many an affront to nation’s highest civilian honor.

Belichick, Patriots have previously met with Trump

Belichick has resisted previous pressure to decline an invitation from Trump, joining his Super Bowl champion Patriots for a White House visit in 2017. Team owner Robert Kraft had a Super Bowl ring made for Trump.

The Patriots did not visit the White House amid an increasingly hostile political climate following their 2019 Super Bowl victory.

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