New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick issued a statement Monday in which he declined to accept the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which President Donald Trump had intended to present to him.
Belichick's statement explained that though he appreciated the honor, in light of the events of Wednesday -- when Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol in protest of Joe Biden's Electoral College victory -- he would not proceed forward with accepting the medal.
"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," Belichick said in a statement obtained by NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport. "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."
The presentation of the Presidential Medal of Freedom was expected for Thursday, a White House official confirmed to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.
Trump and Belichick have known each other for several years. Trump, before his campaign victory in 2016, read a letter of praise from Belichick at a New Hampshire rally. Belichick said afterward he was not a political person and that he had "a friendship and loyalty to Donald."
Trump has selected a string of sports figures and political backers for the award of late. He has often held grand presentation ceremonies for the award, but recent ceremonies have taken place in private. Trump has generally avoided the press since his election loss. And Twitter banned his account Friday, citing "the risk of further incitement of violence" following the deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol last Wednesday.
Massachusetts congressman Rep. Jim McGovern (D) said during a Monday morning appearance on CNN that Belichick should "refuse" the award.
"This president has made a mockery of the Presidential Medal of Freedom," McGovern said. "Bill Belichick should do the right thing and say, 'No thanks.'"
"I'll be very disappointed to be honest with you. This president is not fit to be in office, so anything that he would bestow on anybody to me is meaningless and to accept it is disgraceful."
Belichick is undoubtedly one of the most successful football coaches in NFL history and owns the most wins among active coaches. The Bill Belichick Foundation also provides scholarship and grant funds to help underprivileged youth participate in sports programs.
Politico first reported about the honor for Belichick.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.