In the waning days of his administration, Trump has chosen a number of sports figures to receive the Medal of Freedom, including former football coach Lou Holtz, who supported Trump during his 2016 campaign. The day after last week’s violence, he gave the award to golfers Annika Sorenstam, Gary Player and the late Babe Zaharias. In the past, the medal has been presented to recipients in a ceremony, but presentations since Trump’s election loss have taken place privately.
The Medal of Freedom, created by John Kennedy in 1963, is awarded to individuals who have made “an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.” The honor for Belichick comes as the House of Representatives considers whether to impeach Trump for the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
In Massachusetts, the announcement drew the kind of scrutiny to which the six-time Super Bowl champion is unaccustomed. “I would refuse it if I were Bill Belichick,” Rep. Jim McGovern, whose district is in central Massachusetts, told CNN. “This president has made a mockery of the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Look at who he has given it to in the last weeks: people like Devin Nunes and Jim Jordan. I mean, please. Bill Belichick should do the right thing and say, ‘No, thanks.’ ”
There has been no comment from the Patriots or Belichick, who has served on the President’s Council on Sports, Fitness and Nutrition since 2018. Belichick learned of the honor before the violence at the U.S. Capitol, according to Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio.
McGovern added that he would be “very disappointed” if Belichick were to accept the medal. “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.”
As he campaigned the day before the Nov. 8, 2016 election, Trump shared Belichick’s letter in a campaign appearance in Manchester, N.H., telling the crowd that Belichick had agreed to this rare glimpse into his personal correspondence.
“Congratulations on a tremendous campaign,” Trump read. “You have dealt with an unbelievable slanted and negative media and have come out beautifully. You’ve proved to be the ultimate competitor and fighter. Your leadership is amazing. I have always had tremendous respect for you, but the toughness and perseverance you have displayed over the past year is remarkable. Hopefully tomorrow’s election results will give the opportunity to Make America Great Again. Best wishes for great results tomorrow, Bill Belichick.”
During a regular midseason news conference with reporters on the day after the election, Belichick was peppered with questions, forced to do the rarest and most uncomfortable thing for him, pulling back the curtain a wee bit and revealing information completely unrelated to the upcoming game.
“I’ve received a number of inquiries relative to a note that I wrote to Donald on Monday,” he said. “Our friendship goes back many years and I think anybody that’s spent more than five minutes with me knows I’m not a political person. The comments are not politically motivated, I have a friendship and loyalty to Donald.
“[A] couple of weeks ago, we had [then Secretary of State [John] Kerry in our locker room. That’s another friend of mine. I can’t imagine two people with more different political views than those two, but to me friendship and loyalty is just about that. It’s not about political or religious views.
“I write hundreds of letters and notes every month. [It] doesn’t mean I agree with every single thing that every person thinks about politics, religion or other subjects. I have multiple friendships that are important to me. That’s what that was about.
“It’s not about politics, it’s about football. We’ve got a huge game this week against a great football team and a great organization …”
Belichick, the son of a beloved and longtime scout at the Naval Academy, generally restricts his outside-football activities to his foundation, which provides scholarships and grants to help underprivileged youth participate in sports programs. He has also spoken out about Armenia and supported causes related to the military.
After the Patriots won the Super Bowl in 2016, the coach and his team visited the White House, something a number of other pro teams declined to do after winning championships. “Well, you know what’s interesting, this is our, I’m happy to say, fifth Super Bowl in the last 16 years,” owner Robert Kraft told the “Today” show. Kraft, who has been supportive of both Barack Obama and Trump, later gave Trump a Super Bowl ring. “And every time we’ve had the privilege of going to the White House, a dozen of our players don’t go. This is the first time it’s gotten any media attention. You know, some of the players have the privilege of going in college because they’re on national championship teams, others have family commitments. But this is America. We’re all free to do whatever’s best for us. We’re just privileged to be in a position to be going.”