Bill Belichick, the legendary coach of the New England Patriots, has declined the Presidential Medal of Freedom in light of last week’s violence, when a mob attacked the U.S. Capitol based on the president’s false claims about the election.
Belichick announced his decision to refuse the award on Monday evening, citing the events of Jan. 6 without mentioning U.S. President Donald Trump by name.
“Remaining true to the people, team and country I love outweigh the benefits of any individual award,” he wrote in the statement.
Belichick has won six Super Bowl championships with the Patriots. He’s also a longtime friend of Trump’s, and is part of the President’s Council on Sports, Fitness and Nutrition.
He seemed to suggest in his statement that something changed after the attack on the Capitol last week.
“The tragic events of last week occurred and the decision has been made not to move forward with the award,” he said. “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.”
Trump egged on his supporters to march on the Capitol shortly before the riot, riling them up with his false claims of election fraud and urging them to “fight much harder” to overturn a democratic election that he lost. The group marched down to Capitol at his urging and broke into the building by force.
Four rioters and a Capitol Police officer were killed in the attack. Another officer died by suicide a short time later.
Congress reconvened after the attack and certified Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory, despite a few baseless claims of impropriety from pro-Trump lawmakers.
Trump now faces impeachment for inciting the riot. Several major corporations have also abandoned him and those who amplified his falsehoods in Congress. The PGA, for instance, bailed on plans to hold its 2022 championship at a Trump property, citing the toxicity of being associated with the president’s brand.
Belichick is the first to decline a major award in the wake of the riot, after facing calls to do so in Massachusetts.
Trump has used the Presidential Medal of Freedom to honour wealthy Republican donors, dead celebrities, several golfers and his political supporters in Congress and the media. The latest recipients include GOP Rep. Jim Jordan, who supported Trump’s effort to overturn the democratic election results. Jordan has also refused to acknowledge Trump’s role in inciting the riot.
Trump awarded the Medal of Freedom last week to golfers Annika Sorenstam, Gary Player and the late Babe Didrikson Zaharias. Player played a round of golf with Trump in 2019.