Tuesday, 12 January 2021

Bill Belichick: NFL coach turns down Presidential Medal of Freedom

Top NFL coach Bill Belichick says he will not accept President Donald Trump's offer of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, citing the US Capitol riot.

Belichick, of the New England Patriots, said he was flattered when he was first offered the medal - the top award given to civilians in the US.

But he said he changed his mind after a mob of Trump supporters stormed Congress last week. Five people died.

The celebrated coach had previously spoken of his friendship with Mr Trump.

"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 said in a statement.

"Subsequently, the tragic events of last week occurred and the decision has been made not to move forward with the award."

Belichick, who has won a record six Super Bowl titles, is considered one of the most successful coaches in NFL history.

The Presidential Medal of Freedom recognises individuals who have made outstanding contributions to "the security or national interests of America".

In 2019 Mr Trump gave the award to golfer Tiger Woods, as well as radio personality Rush Limbaugh and posthumously Elvis Presley.

Donald Trump may only have recently made a career of politics, but he's always loved sport.

He owns 17 golf courses and once bought and ran the New Jersey Generals of the US Football League.

Just last week, he awarded three presidential medals of freedom to professional golfers. This week he was planning to honour the most successful professional football coach in modern times, Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots.

The president seems to particularly enjoy the company of sport figures and revel in their achievements and prowess.

So for Belichick, a personal friend of the president's, to decline the award is a stinging rebuke.

The coach's decision reflects the depth of the political crisis president has created in the past week. It also highlights the troubled relationship Trump has had with the National Football League and its players, who he has disparaged for Black Lives Matter protests during the US national anthem.

Belichick, a sometimes bristling, controversial figure with more than a few detractors, is used to public animosity. A coach can't win without the commitment of his players, however, and Belichick clearly believed his relationship with his team would be jeopardised by associating himself with Trump at this point.

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