Before he will leave office on January 20, one of Donald Trump’s final duties might be awarding the Presidential Medal of Freedom to New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick. According to a report by Politico’s Meridith McGraw, the outgoing president is planning to bestow the honor upon Belichick at some point this week.
The Medal of Freedom was established by John F. Kennedy back in 1963, and is considered the highest honor a civilian can achieve in the United States. According to the White House, it is awarded “to individuals who have made exceptional contributions to the security or national interests of America, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.”
While Belichick does not fall under the first category, his six Super Bowl wins as head coach of the Patriots are the most in NFL history. His 311 combined regular season and playoff victories are ranked third all time, behind only Don Shula (347) and George Halas (324).
It is not certain that Belichick will accept the honor from the divisive 45th President, however. Trump, after all, is currently under increased pressure from the House of Representatives after he incited a violent mob that attacked the Capitol while Congress was in the process of confirming Joe Biden as the next President following his election victory over Trump in November.
Despite the increased pressure, Trump has recently selected several prominent sports figures as well as political allies to receive the honor. Among them are former college football coach Lou Holtz, golfers Annika Sorenstam and Gary Player, and late Olympian Mildred “Babe” Didrikson Zaharias. Sorenstam, Player and Didrikson Zaharias were honored last Thursday.
Even though it remains to be seen whether or not Belichick will join them, he has supported Trump in the past.
Ahead of the 2016 election, that saw Trump beat Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, Belichick wrote a letter to the future President — one that was read on stage by Trump during a campaign rally — saying that he would hope “tomorrow’s election results will give [Trump] the opportunity to make America great again.” Belichick, at the time, pointed out that his motive was not a political one but rather a gesture of friendship.
Three months later, Belichick and Trump met when the former was part of the Patriots team that was honored by the President at the White House. One year later, Trump named Belichick to the President’s Council on Sports, Fitness and Nutrition.
In 2019, he had another opportunity to visit the White House after the Patriots’ most recent Super Bowl win. However, neither Belichick nor his team made the trip after numerous players decided to decline invitations as a form of protest against Trump.