New England Patriots coach Bill Belisik said he will not get a title Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Trump In the wake of last week’s riots at the US Capitol.
Blichik, who had previously spoken publicly about his friendship with the president, was set to receive the nation’s highest civilian honor after Trump introduced him more than a week ago. That was before a mob of supporters of the President surrounded the Capitol, killing five people.
„Recently, I had the opportunity to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which was full of respect for what this honor represents and admiration for its former recipients,“ Bilesik said in a statement. „Later, the tragic events of last week took place and a decision was made not to proceed with the award.“
Bilesik’s bid was only reported on Sunday, raising questions about whether the most accomplished coach in soccer history would stand by his friend amid controversy.
Although Bilesik’s statement did not mention Trump by name, the decision amounts to a sharp rebuke to a president who has faced calls from Democratic lawmakers, and some Republicans, to remove him from office. His decision comes just days after Trump awarded the medal to Gary Player and Anika Surenstam, two of the best golfers of all time. The player and Sorenstam faced criticism for their association with the president in the wake of recent events.
Belisik said he knows he also represents his family and the Patriots and added that one of the most rewarding parts of his career has been the team’s social justice efforts over the past year. His statement said: „Continuing these efforts while remaining loyal to the people, team and country I love outweighs the benefits of any individual award.“
Bilesik’s focus came as the pockets of the sports world that remained supportive of Trump were racing to distance themselves from the president during his final days in office. Late Sunday, the US PGA pulled the prestigious 2022 PGA Championship from the Trump National Golf Club in Bidminster, with the organization’s president Jim Richerson saying, “It has become clear that holding a PGA Championship in Trump Bidminster would be detrimental to the American PGA. Commercial. “
On Monday, the R&A, the body that oversees events like the British Open, said it was not planning to stage its tournaments at Trump’s Scottish golf resort that has hosted four British championships and two British openings for women, „until we were convinced the focus would be on the tournament.“
Bilesik’s close association with Trump has been on public display for some time. When Trump ran for president for the first time in 2016, he read aloud a letter from Bilesik at a rally that praised him, leading the soccer coach to describe his „loyalty“ to the president.
“I think anyone who has spent more than five minutes with me knows that I am not a political person. My comments are not politically motivated. I have friendship and loyalty to Donald,” Bilesik said in 2016.
Belishek, 68, has coached the Patriots since 2000. He has won six Super Bowls, the most of any coach in NFL history. The son of a Navy veteran, he spent most of his youth at the United States Naval Academy, where his father was a soccer coach.
Write to Andrew Beaton at andrew[email protected] and Louise Radnofsky at [email protected]
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