In a delicately worded one-paragraph statement, the six-time Super Bowl-winning coach did not explicitly say that he turned down President Donald Trump’s offer, which he called a friend. Instead, Belichick explained, “the decision has been made not to go ahead with the award” following last week’s deadly siege on the US Capitol.
Trump announced on Saturday, three days after the riots, that he would award Belichick the country’s highest civilian honor – in a wave of late presentations that also included golfers Annika Sorenstam, Gary Player and the late Babe Zaharias.
Sorenstam and Player accepted their awards in a private ceremony the day after Trump supporters stormed the US Senate and House of Representatives. Five people died in the chaos, including US Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick. Belichick was to be honored on Thursday.
“I was flattered … out of respect for what the honor represents and out of admiration for past recipients,” the coach said in a statement, which was forwarded to The Associated Press by the Patriots.
“After that, the tragic events of the past week happened and the decision was made not to go ahead 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. ”
Although he describes himself as apolitical, Belichick has sometimes entered politics.
The architect of the Patriots dynasty wrote Trump a letter of support which the candidate read aloud the day before the 2016 election at a rally in New Hampshire, a stronghold of the team’s fandom.
Although Trump said the letter offered “my best wishes for great results” on election day and “the opportunity to make America great again,” Belichick said it was simply to support a friend .
Belichick also wore an Armenian flag pin to the White House in 2015 when the team celebrated their fourth Super Bowl victory – seen as a sign of support for the team’s soccer director, Berj Najarian, of Armenian descent. Last month Belichick called on the US government to take action against Turkey and Azerbaijan for “unprovoked and violent attacks against Armenians.”
In the wake of George Floyd’s death this summer, Patriots players praised Belichick for providing an open forum for them to express their feelings about race and social injustice in America. In his statement on Monday, Belichick called this “one of the most rewarding things of my professional career.”
“Thanks to the great leadership within our team, conversations about social justice, equality and human rights have come to the fore and become actions,” he said. “Continuing these efforts while remaining loyal to the people, team and country I love outweighs the benefits of any individual reward. ”