There is a controversy brewing in New England. We have had Deflategate, we have had Spygate and now we have Medalgate. That’s because Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick has been named by outgoing US President Donald Trump to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom on Thursday.
In what is expected to be one of his final duties as president, if he has not been removed from office by then, President Trump is hoping to bestow the rare award to Belichick after a stellar career in the NFL, chiefly as head coach in New England.
It is also likely to be a complete coincidence that Belichick was also a friend and advocate for Trump during the latter’s 2016 presidential campaign.
Furious Response to News of Award
Given the events in the Capitol last week, the reaction to this news of a, let’s be honest, richly deserved award for the New England Head Coach in terms of his merit alone, has been met with dismay and anger by many New England fans.
Indeed, Twitter has been ablaze with comments since the announcement, with almost universal agreement that Belichick should turn the award down. A couple of Tweets which give an indication of the strength of feeling on this matter are outlined below.
I’ve been an ardent Patriots fan since I was 10. If Bill Belichick accepts a Medal of Honor from Donald J. Trump, it’ll be the sort of thing that tarnishes his legacy — and the team’s — forever. It’s just such an obvious no-brainer that he shouldn’t do this.
— Jesse Singal (@jessesingal) January 11, 2021
I have been a @Patriots fan since 1960. Sixty one years. Throw thick and thin, I have supported them. From Clive Rush to Super Bowls. If Bill Belichick accepts this “honor” I AM DONE!
— Joe 7.0 (@PowayJoe) January 11, 2021
It’s Not the Recipient, It’s Who Is Doing the Giving
It is important to note here that Belichick’s legacy is well deserving of such an award.
He was the fastest coach in NFL history to win 300 games (only Don Shula and George Halas have also won that many games). His record of 274-103 as Patriots Head Coach is the best ever in NFL history and the Patriots are the only team to have a record of over .700 with a single head coach.
He has won 17 divisional titles, the most of any head coach in NFL history. He is the only coach ever to win six Super Bowls and he has coached for 46 consecutive years in the NFL, the most in NFL history. Every one of those stats alone is an incredible achievement.
The issue is not that the New England head coach does not deserve recognition. It is simply the matter of who has decided to bestow it on him and the timing of the award.
Medal Tainted by Association
The events of the last week have seen the Donald Trump cast in possibly the worst light of any
incumbent U.S. President, including Richard Nixon. For Belichick to accept this award from Trump in the light of last week’s events would clearly be the last straw for many in New England.
There is also the very real issue that it could severely taint his legacy.
However, if Belichick does accept the award, he would not be the only sporting legend to accept it recently. Just a day after events in the Capitol, golfers Gary Player and Annika Sorenstam accepted their Medal of Freedom awards from the president in private ceremonies at the White House.
What will Belichick do?
It is hugely sad that a person so deserving of such an award for their incredible career in the NFL, has been drawn into this hugely political and potentially divisive scenario. Belichick certainly deserved to be celebrated and rewarded for his achievements, but not in such a way where he could appear to be, at best, insensitive should he accept the award.
The pressure is mounting on Belichick to politely decline the award and perhaps wait for a new sitting president to award him instead. However, there’s no guarantee that would occur in the future.
Even though it most definitely should for the person who is clearly in the argument as being the finest head coach in the history of the game.