FOXBOROUGH — Bill Belichick put football on the back burner for a moment Wednesday morning.
The Patriots coach ventured out of his familiar arena to tackle a worldly subject he feels strongly about, calling on the United States to take action against Turkey and Azerbaijan for their attacks on Armenians.
When asked for his reaction to a recent memo penned by acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller, which incorporated Belichick and his familiar “Do Your Job’' slogan (“We are a team, and that should be our mindset,” Miller wrote), Belichick addressed the current crisis in Armenia.
“I appreciate the kind words from Secretary Miller,’' Belichick said. “When you consider the type of leadership that’s he’s shown throughout his career and serving our country, it really means a lot. I’m flattered by the reference he made.’'
Miller, who was appointed to his post after President Trump fired Miller’s predecessor, Mark Esper, last week, also wrote in his missive:
“Focus on your assignment. Complete the task at hand. And if each one of us does so to the best of our abilities, nothing can stop us from achieving our objectives and successfully accomplishing the mission. That is what I am committed to doing every single day as your secretary.’'
The coach also spoke about the ramifications, including deaths, resulting from conflicts along the Armenia and Azerbaijan border.
Heavy fighting broke out in late September, the largest escalation in a long conflict between the sides that according to the Associated Press has cost hundreds and maybe even thousands of lives.
A truce, which was brokered by Russian officials last week, has allowed many who fled the fighting to return home, though the AP has reported the agreement has angered Armenians, who feel it favored territorial concessions to Azerbaijan.
“I’d just say, while we’re on the subject, I read [Miller’s] point about combatting [transnational] threats, and I couldn’t help but think and hope … I hope that our country will take action against Turkey and Azerbaijan for their unprovoked and deadly attacks on Armenians,” Belichick said.
“We’ve seen when humanitarian crises and things like that, like ethnic cleansing, go unpunished, they just continue to happen. I hope that we can put a stop to that.”
It was not the first time Belichick has made his feelings known on the plight of Armenians. The coach last month made similar comments of support on the Instagram account of his longtime assistant, Berj Najarian, who is of Armenian descent and has worked to shed light on their cause.
Belichick and Najarian both wore Armenian flag pins during a White House ceremony honoring the Super Bowl champion Patriots in 2015. Najarian challenged President Obama for not using the word “genocide” when describing the mass murder of 1.5 million Armenians by Ottoman Turks early in the 20th century.
According to the Armenian Diaspora Survey, Boston, with about 50,000, is home to one of the United States’s largest Armenian populations.
Transitioning back to Miller’s words, Belichick reiterated how flattered he was to be used as a reference for Miller, a former colonel in the Army who led Special Forces Groups in Afghanistan and Iraq.
“What a tremendous career he’s had in protecting our freedom and helping give us the opportunity to do what we do, and that’s coach and play football,” he said.