Book: Donald Trump said Bill Belichick 'chickened out' in rejecting Freedom medal and they later made up at a golf course

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·NFL columnist
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A forthcoming book chronicling a turbulent 18-month snapshot of American politics will claim some new details surrounding one of the higher-profile rejections that former President Donald Trump experienced during his time in office: the refusal of the Presidential Medal of Freedom by New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick.

In the book "This Will Not Pass: Trump, Biden, and the Battle for America’s Future," New York Times reporters Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns share an April 2021 interview with the former president at Mar-a-Lago, where Trump spoke about the wavering political support he experienced following the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the United States Capitol. Within it, Trump spoke about Belichick’s refusal to accept the Medal of Freedom in the wake of the insurrection, making the Patriots coach one of only four individuals to decline one of the highest civilian service honors in the United States. The book is slated for a May 3 release.

An excerpt obtained by Yahoo Sports dove into how Belichick’s refusal had needled Trump and the former president boasted of an alleged reconciliation a few months later:

Trump bragged that it was not only Republican politicians who had crawled back to his side after briefly rejecting him after January 6.

One of the rejections that had bothered him the most had come from Bill Belichick, the legendary coach of the New England Patriots who had declined Trump’s attempt to grant him the Presidential Medal of Freedom. In the immediate aftermath of the riot, it was just not possible for him to appear with Trump. Back then, Trump said, Belichick had “chickened out.” But get this, Trump confided: The coach had just a week earlier been playing golf at Trump’s nearby course. Trump had run into him there on the second-to-last hole. “He came up to me on the seventeenth,” the former commander-in-chief recounted with relish.

Stretching credulity for anyone familiar with Belichick’s gruff persona, Trump claimed: “He hugged me and kissed me."

Patriots head coach Bill Belichick declined the Presdential Medal of Freedom from former President Donald Trump.. (Photo by John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick declined the Presdential Medal of Freedom from former President Donald Trump.. (Photo by John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

The moment allegedly took place during a round of golf at Trump International in South Florida in March of 2021. Around that same time, Trump took in a round at the club with golfer Dana Quigley, leading to a photo emerging on social media of Trump seated in front of a cheeseburger, with Belichick dining separately with his own party at another nearby table over Trump’s shoulder.

The passage was a small snapshot in a book straddling a year and a half of upheaval in the American political system in 2020 and 2021, focusing on the end of Trump’s presidency and the beginning of President Joe Biden’s administration, through the prism of the 2020 election and the country’s political and democratic divisions. The former president’s vantage of Belichick’s decision to refuse the Medal of Freedom honor (and then the alleged ensuing golf course greeting) is the first time Trump has addressed the topic in the media.

At the time of his refusal in January of 2021, Belichick cited the “tragic events of the past week” in his reasoning for bypassing the honor:

"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. 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."

Revisiting Belichick’s refusal isn’t the only time Trump’s relationships (or alleged boasts) about sports figures pops up. The book also includes some of the former president’s alleged stories about Tom Brady and Mike Tyson, including recounting a 2020 dinner at the Trump National Golf Club in New Jersey, with Governor Phil Murphy and his wife Tammy:

On the patio at Bedminster, the Murphys found a very different Trump at dinner than the one who had marched across Lafayette Square. In New Jersey, the president was happily ensconced in his circle of yes-men, regaling the state’s first couple with stories about Mike Tyson (the boxer, Trump said, had been convinced at one point that Trump was having an affair with Robin Givens, Tyson’s wife at the time) and Tom Brady (the football star, Trump said, had not been the same after marrying Gisele Bündchen, who insisted on cooking him a painstakingly health-conscious diet).

Another passage in the book recounts Trump’s alleged — and oft-repeated — belief that Brady could have been his son-in-law rather than Jared Kushner, during a conversation with a friend at his Trump National Golf Club in Virginia:

Jared, Trump told a friend at his Virginia golf course, was “the smartest guy I’ve ever seen in my life. … Can’t throw a football ten yards, and Ivanka coulda married Tom Brady,” Trump said, according to the friend. “But he’s a great kid, he’s got my back."