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Patriots head coach Bill Belichick will not accept Presidential Medal of Freedom

In a statement sent to ESPN, the head coach of the New England Patriots says the "tragic events" at the U.S. Capitol shaped his decision.

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New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick will not be accepting the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Donald Trump, according to a statement he sent to ESPN's Adam Schefter.

In the statement, Belichick confirmed that he was offered the opportunity to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom, one of the nation's highest civilian honors, and was "flattered" by the gesture.

However, he has decided not to move forward with accepting the award following the violence that broke out at the U.S. Capitol last Wednesday.

"Above all, I am an American citizen with great reverence for our nation's values, freedom and democracy," Belichick said in the statement. "I know I also represent my family and the New England Patriots team."

Belichick also stated that one of the most rewarding moments of his professional career happened this year when conversations about social justice, equality and human rights moved to the forefront and became actions "through the great leadership within our team."

"Continuing those efforts while remaining true to the people, team and country I love outweigh the benefits of any individual award," the statement reads.

Related video: House looks to oust Trump after US Capitol riot


The team's social justice efforts were a topic of discussion during Belichick's season-ending news conference last Monday.

"This was a very educational year from all the social justice meetings and things that we had in the spring, which carried over into the season. I think our team did a great job of that," Belichick said Jan. 4. "We had great leadership from Jason (McCourty), Devin (McCourty), Matt (Slater) and many others — Brandon King, guys that are involved in just many, many different aspects of that. But, most importantly, just bringing the awareness within the team for each other and us getting to know each other and appreciate each other’s background, story and thoughts. And that was very, again, educational for me, as well as everybody else. I think we all benefited from it, and again, things that we’ve done this year that will help us going forward."

The presentation of the Presidential Medal of Freedom was expected to be held Thursday, according to The Associated Press.

Trump and Belichick have known each other for several years — with Trump, before his campaign victory in 2016, reading a letter of praise from Belichick at a New Hampshire rally. Belichick said afterward he was not a political person and that he had “a friendship and loyalty to Donald."

Trump has selected a string of sports figures and political backers for the award of late. He has often held grand presentation ceremonies for the award, but recent ceremonies have taken place in private. Trump has generally avoided the press since his election loss.

Belichick is undoubtedly one of the most successful football coaches in NFL history and owns the most wins among active coaches. The Bill Belichick Foundation also provides scholarships and grant funds to help underprivileged youth participate in sports programs.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.