Bill Belišek, the American football coach, rejected the White House’s invitation to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Donald Trump. The 68-year-old American has come under great pressure.
Belisik explains his decision in a statement, although he did not explicitly name Trump, who should hand the presidency to Joe Biden on January 20. It refers to the events of last week in Washington, when Trump supporters stormed the Capitol. Five people were killed in the unrest.
“I was recently offered the Presidential Medal of Freedom. I have been very flattered by what the award represents and the admiration of those who received it earlier,” Bileshik wrote in a statement. The Presidential Medal of Freedom is the highest award that can be awarded to a citizen of the United States.
“The show was followed by the tragic events of last week and I made a decision not to receive the award. I am an American citizen, and I respect the values, freedom and democracy of our country.”
Bill Belisik shakes hands with Donald Trump in 2017.
“Shameful” when the coach accepts the medal
Bilesik had coached the New England Patriots for twenty years, leading to at least six Super Bowl wins. Trump wanted to honor the successful and beloved coach, who openly supported him in the 2016 election, in the final days of his presidency.
After storming the Capitol, Bilesic was summoned from various quarters for not accepting the medal. Politician Jim McGovern, who represents Massachusetts (the Patriots state) in the House, described it as “shameful” for the coach to accept the medal.
Many fans of the Patriots also did not want him to accept the Trump award, and Bilesic decided to comply. During his tenure, Trump clashed frequently with NFL players, who knelt before matches to protest systemic racism in the United States.
“I know that I represent my family and the patriots,” says Bilesic. “In 2020, the leadership within our club sparked conversations about social justice and human rights, which resulted in taking action, which is one of the greatest things of my career. One of the greatest things in my career, outweighs me an individual award.”