Fact check: Patriots coach Bill Belichick declined the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Trump

  • In Politics
  • 2021-01-13 22:34:42Z

The claim: NFL coach Bill Belichick rejects President Trump's Presidential Medal of Freedom

New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick turned down the Presidential Medal of Freedom in the wake of the Jan. 6 riots at the U.S. Capitol building, according to an Instagram post.

"Bill Belichick has just rejected Donald Trump ... the Patriots head coach says he will NOT accept POTUS' Presidential Medal of Freedom ... and it's all because of the riots at the U.S. Capitol," states the caption of a Jan. 11 post by user, DJ Akademiks.

DJ Akademiks is a satirist who posts videos with commentary on social issues and current events - mostly pertaining to the music industry - to his YouTube channel, according to a profile page. USA TODAY reached out to him for comment.

Belichick has coached the Patriots for 21 seasons, leading the team to six Super Bowl championships, according to the team's website. The Patriots were guests of Trump at the White House after their Super Bowl victory in 2017 but declined to visit after their 2019 championship after it became "particularly controversial" to accept White House invites during the Trump administration, according to USA TODAY.

A longtime supporter of the president, Belichick was appointed a member of Trump's Council on Sport, Fitness, and Nutrition in 2018, USA TODAY reported.

Despite the relationship between Trump and Belichick, the legendary coach declined the nation's highest civilian honor on Jan. 11.

More: Fact check: Video shows Trump family in tent before Jan. 6 rally

Decision made 'not to move forward with the award'

Trump's plans to award Belichick the Presidential Medal of Freedom were reported in Politico on Jan. 10, four days after some say the president incited his supporters to attack the Capitol, according to USA TODAY.

"The Medal for Freedom for Belichick will represent the culmination of one of the more public relationships Trump has enjoyed with a major sports figure during the course of his presidency," Politico reported.

Belichick would have been among 25 other recipients awarded the honor during the Trump administration, according to Politico.

But the deadly riot on Jan. 6, combined with significant public pressure, influenced his decision to refuse the award, USA TODAY reported.

"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 released Jan. 11, according to USA TODAY.

"Above all, I'm an American citizen with great reverence for our nation's values, freedom and democracy," he said.

Belichick admitted to being "flattered" by Trump's gesture, but the Patriots' leadership role on some social issues inspired him to turn down the Medal of Freedom.

"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," he said, according to USA TODAY. "Continuing those efforts while remaining true to the people, team and country that I love outweigh the benefits of any individual award."

Our rating: True

We rate this claim TRUE, based on our research. New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick declined the Presidential Medal of Freedom days after riots at the U.S. Capitol incited by Trump, per an official statement.

Our fact-check sources:

  • USA TODAY, Jan. 11: "Patriots' Bill Belichick declines Medal of Freedom from Donald Trump, says he has 'great reverence' for democracy"

  • USA TODAY, May 4, 2018: "Donald Trump appoints Patriots coach Bill Belichick to Sports Council"

  • USA TODAY, April 19, 2017: "Watch live: Trump welcomes New England Patriots to White House"

  • Politico, Jan. 10: "Trump to award Bill Belichick the Medal of Freedom amid House impeachment push"

  • USA TODAY, Jan. 7: "Could Donald Trump, Rudy Giuliani face charges of inciting mob violence in Capitol riots?"

  • USA TODAY, Jul 1, 2019: "Will the Patriots visit the White House to celebrate Super Bowl LIII?"

Thank you for supporting our journalism. You can subscribe to our print edition, ad-free app or electronic newspaper replica here.

Our fact check work is supported in part by a grant from Facebook.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: Bill Belichick declined Presidential Medal of Freedom


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