Patriots' Bill Belichick Declines Presidential Medal of Freedom in the Wake of the Capitol Riots

The Patriots head coach said that continuing the team's social justice efforts "while remaining true to the people, team and country I love outweigh[s] the benefits of any individual award"

Donald Trump, Bill Belichick
Bill Belichick, Donald Trump. Photo: John Tlumacki/Getty Images

Bill Belichick will not be accepting the Presidential Medal of Freedom following last week's failed insurrection attempt on the U.S. Capitol, the New England Patriots head coach said Monday.

"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," Belichick, 68, said in a statement obtained by PEOPLE. "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," he continued. "I know I also represent my family and the New England Patriots team."

Bill Belichick. EPA/JOHN CETRINO

Belichick, who visited the White House in 2017 after his team's Super Bowl victory over the Atlanta Falcons, continued to say that "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," Belichick said.

Belichick supported Trump in the 2016 presidential election, and was reappointed to the President's Council on Sports, Fitness and Nutrition in December.

Politico was first to report over the weekend that Trump would award Belichick the nation's highest civilian honor.

On Thursday, Trump awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to golfers Annika Sorenstam, Gary Player and the late Babe Zaharias in a closed-door ceremony that took place less than 24 hours after the Capitol building was breached and vandalized by insurrectionists.

On Monday, House Democrats formally introduced one article of impeachment against Trump, charging him with "incitement of insurrection" following the attempted coup on the Capitol by a mob of his supporters that left five people dead.

The resolution is expected to be voted on later this week.

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