Updated on Jan. 11, 2021 at 7:45 p.m. EST: Several hours after posting this column, Bill Belichick released a statement saying he will not accept the Medal of Freedom offered by Donald Trump. You can read Belichick’s statement in the tweet below from ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Beneath that is our original column in full.
The Presidential Medal of Freedom is the highest civilian honor the United States can bestow. Founded in 1963 by then-President John F. Kennedy, it purports to honor those 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.” Does that sound like Bill Belichick to you? Or Gary Player? Or Devin Nunes, who repeatedly sued an imaginary cow for defamation?
It does not.
And yet Belichick, Nunes, and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) are set to receive the award from Donald Trump on Thursday. Player, along with LPGA great Annika Sorenstam, received their medals last Thursday, just one day after armed insurgents stormed the Capitol and attempted to overturn the 2020 presidential election and do God knows what else. What had Gary Player and Annika Sorenstam done to deserve such distinction, you ask? Primarily, they retweeted Jack Nicklaus’ endorsement of Trump in the days leading up to the election. Happily, enshrining some of his biggest cheerleaders in the world of golf didn’t stop the PGA from pulling the 2022 PGA Championship from Trump’s Bedminster golf course in N.J.
Sure, Trump has given the Medal of Freedom to other athletes, such as Tiger Woods, who went into business with Trump, and Mariano Rivera, a longtime strident supporter of the president. But the common thread that runs through all of Trump’s Medal of Freedom recipients is that, as in all other facets of Trump’s universe, they have supported and contributed to the normalization of Trump in the eyes of Americans.
Bill Belichick, infamously, wrote a letter of support/fawning idolatry to Trump back in 2016, using the kinds of words Trump loves to hear about himself, namely “tremendous,” “beautifully,” “leadership.”
Congratulations on a tremendous campaign. You have dealt with an unbelievable slanted and negative media, and have come out beautifully – 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.
I can’t stress enough that Belichick claims to have actually written this letter, though it uses all eight adjectives Trump knows and stops just short of claiming “yuge” success and complaining that the media treats him very badly. But if we’re all agreeing to this fiction, so be it. For whatever reason, Belichick went along with it, like scores of other white people who have, for reasons still not understood, gone along with every one of Trumps’s racist, misogynist, xenophobic, transphobic, and homophobic policies.
Trump’s fascination with Belichick has been no secret. Just this past August, he went on Hugh Hewitt’s radio show and called Belichick a “very good friend” and “a winner.” There’s nothing Trump loves more than a winner. As for Belichick, he’s never gone out of his way to denounce Trump, even when he called NFL players who knelt “sons of bitches” or railed against the Black Lives Matter movement last summer.
I don’t know if Belichick and Trump are actually “good friends’’ or not. Aside from his advocating for the US to intervene in the ongoing Turkish attacks on Armenia, I don’t know what Bill Belichick’s politics are, though I can take a wild guess.
What I do know is that last week, we watched the President of the United States incite a group of Nazi and confederate flag-waving yahoos to attack and desecrate the U.S. Capitol, all while he refused to send in aid for the law enforcement he purports to back. Then, in the aftermath, Trump petulantly refused to lower federal flags to half-staff in honor of the Capitol Police officer who died in the melee, having been beaten to death with a fire extinguisher by a mob loyal to Trump above country and self-interest. I know that Trump has been dog-whistling to racists and bigots of every kind for the last ten years, beginning with suggesting that the first Black President of the United States was not a “real “ American.
I know that Trump’s frantic bestowing of awards on those he deems loyal is an attempt to distract from the real world. That would be a real world in which everyone, from members of Congress to suburban moms, are calling for his removal from office by whatever means necessary. I know that it’s imperative that Trump be impeached, lest he again try to inflict this circus grift on America four years from now. This morning, the U.S. House of Representatives bestowed upon Trump the honor of being the first president to have articles of impeachment filed against him twice.
I have a lot of personal feelings about Belichick and the way he’s chosen to win as a football coach, but accepting a tarnished Medal of Freedom from a disgraced President is something I’ve come to equate less with Belichick and more with Jim Jordan, a sniveling, obsequious Trump errand-boy accused of helping cover up of the sexual abuse of more than 150 wrestlers at Ohio State.
These last-gasp Medals of Freedom are not for outstanding contributions to the United States of America, they are a reward for showing outstanding loyalty to Donald J. Trump, a man we now know will resort even to seditious violence to remain in power no matter what, even after being thrown out of office by 81 million Americans in a valid, certified election. The greasy film of backing Trump’s attempt at authoritarianism should stick with his sycophants from now until the end of the Republic.
If Bill Belichick has any sense of patriotic duty (he coached the PATRIOTS, for crying out loud), or any sense of personal pride, he’ll refuse to accept a corroded honor from a dishonored man.
Do the right thing, Bill.
Update: He did.