Legendary New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick has confirmed that he will not accept the Presidential Medal of Freedom he was scheduled to receive from former President Donald Trump.
Belichick has been under pressure to reject the ceremony after news broke on Sunday in the United States that the former President intended to bestow the honour on the longtime NFL coach.
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The news was met with criticism in the aftermath of last week’s attack on the US Capitol by a pro-Trump mob.
Belichick cited the attack in a statement explaining the decision not to accept the award.
“Recently, I was offered the opportunity to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which I was flattered by out of respect for what the honour 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.”
Pressure mounted on Belichick to turn down Trump
Belichick was reportedly scheduled to receive the medal in a Thursday ceremony in the United States.
Pressure to turn down the honour came from as high as US 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 January 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 honour to political allies and right-wing extremists Rush Limbaugh, Rep. Jim Jordan and Rep. Devin Nunes, decisions considered by many as an affront to nation’s highest civilian honour.
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.
with Yahoo Sports US
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