FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick said Monday he will not "move forward" with the Presidential Medal of Freedom that Donald Trump planned to present to him on Thursday.
Belichick explained his decision in a statement:
"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 was established by John F. Kennedy in 1963. It is awarded by the president to individuals who have made exceptional contributions to the security of national interests of America, to world peace or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.
The honor for Belichick comes as the U.S. House of Representatives is increasing pressure to force Trump from office before the end of his term on Jan. 20, after a pro-Trump mob stormed the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday while Congress was in the process of confirming Joe Biden as his successor.
Trump recently has selected several sports figures and political backers for the honor. Hall of Fame golfers Annika Sorenstam and Gary Player, along with the late multisport athlete Babe Didrikson Zaharias, received the Presidential Medal of Freedom on Thursday, the day after the riot at the Capitol.
Belichick, 68, just concluded his 46th season in the NFL and 21st as Patriots coach. He has led the Patriots to six Super Bowl championships, joining George Halas and Curly Lambeau as the only coaches with six championships since the league began postseason play in 1933. Belichick's 311 victories (regular season and playoffs combined) are third all time, behind Don Shula (347) and Halas (324).