By DEENA ZARU, ABC News
(NEW YORK) — Bill Belichick, the head coach of the New England Patriots, said on Monday that he is declining to accept the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Donald Trump, citing last Wednesday’s siege of the U.S. Capitol, which was partly incited by 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 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 ESPN.
“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,” he continued. “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 county I love outweigh the benefits of any individual award.”
ABC News reached out to the White House for comment.
Trump had planned to present Belichick with the Medal of Freedom in a ceremony at the White House on Thursday, a White House official confirmed to ABC News earlier on Monday.
Belichick had been facing public pressure from the sports world and politicians to decline the honor as the outgoing president faces a political firestorm after he helped incite a mob of supporters to attack the U.S. Capitol over false claims the 2020 election was stolen from him.
When the White House announced that Trump planned to honor Belichick, the Patriots again found themselves in the hot seat over the team’s ties with Trump.
Trump has repeatedly hailed the Patriots as “winners,” touted his friendly relationships with Belichick as well as former Patriots quarterback and star Tom Brady and team owner Robert Kraft. He has golfed with Brady and Belichick, dined with Kraft at his Mar-a-Lago Club in Florida and has even suggested as a candidate and president-elect in 2016 that they supported his presidency.
House Democrats filed an article of impeachment against Trump for “incitement of insurrection” on Monday after the violent riot of Trump supporters on Capitol Hill left five people dead.
The riot came after Trump and his most ardent supporters spent weeks after the 2020 election making false claims of election fraud, urging his supporters to have a “strong” response and stated that the protests will be “wild.” Hours before the Capitol siege, the president addressed the group of supporters at a rally on the day that the Senate was set to certify the Electoral College victory of President-elect Joe Biden and encouraged them to head to the Capitol to protest the results.
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