Jan. 11 (UPI) — New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said he will not accept the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Donald Trump this week.

Belichick explained his decision in a statement released 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. 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. I know I also represent my family and the New England Patriots team. 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.”

The Presidential Medal of Freedom, established by John F. Kennedy in 1963, is one of the nation’s highest civilian honors that is given to those who have made contributions to benefit the security of the United States or national interests, world peace or other cultural endeavors.

The honor for Belichick comes as the House of Representatives increases pressure to remove Trump from office before the end of his term on Jan. 20. Last week, a mob of Trump-supporting rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol building while Congress was in the process of certifying president-elect Joe Biden as Trump’s successor.

Trump has recently awarded multiple sports figures the honor, with Hall of Fame golfers Annika Sorenstam and Gary Player receiving the award on Thursday at the White House.

The 68-year-old Belichick, who has served on the President’s Council on Sports, Fitness and Nutrition since 2018, recently concluded his 46th season in the NFL and 21st with the Patriots organization. He has guided the franchise to six Super Bowl championships.

Trump planned to present Belichick with the award Thursday at the White House.

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