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dan shaughnessy

Bill Belichick made a great call on Medal of Freedom decision

Bill Belichick, President Trump, and Robert Kraft at a White House ceremony in 2017.
Bill Belichick, President Trump, and Robert Kraft at a White House ceremony in 2017.Susan Walsh

President Trump should call Curt Schilling. I’m pretty sure Schill would have no problem showing up in Washington to collect a Presidential Medal of Freedom in the middle of impreachment proceedings, eight days after Trump incited violence against the United States of America.

To his credit, Bill Belichick said no. He apparently saw Trump’s offer for what it was — a ploy to use the celebrity coach to court favor with a nation that had voted him out of office and then became outraged with the events at the Capitol. Hoodie said, “Thanks, Donald. I’m good.”

It was the ultimate diss for our president-under-siege. Along with being bounced from Twitter and seeing the 2022 PGA Championship pulled from his New Jersey golf club, getting his shot blocked by Belichick probably hit our big baby president harder than being charged with high crimes and misdemeanors by the House of Representatives.

In Donald’s macho world of big hands and locker room talk, losing the support of the greatest NFL coach of all time is probably worse than being charged with inflaming a riot that desecrated our nation’s Capitol.

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In February 1968, when admired CBS anchor Walter Cronkite told his viewers that America’s involvement in Vietnam was a failed mission, President Lyndon Johnson said, “If I’ve lost Cronkite, I’ve lost middle America.”

This might be Trump’s Cronkite moment.

Since 2016, whenever snowflakes and “Fake News” threw shade on the president, he always had the Patriots as a fallback. Tom Brady had a MAGA hat in his locker. Bob Kraft contributed $1 million to Trump’s inauguration and gleefully rode around with Trump on Air Force One. Belichick wrote Trump a love note and agreed to let him read it to voters in New Hampshire on the eve of the 2016 election.

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“You have dealt with an unbelievable slanted and negative media and have come out beautifully,” Belichick told Trump. “You’ve proved to be the ultimate competitor and fighter. Your leadership is amazing. I have always had tremendous respect for you, but the toughness and perseverance you have displayed the past year is remarkable. Hopefully tomorrow’s election results will give you the opportunity to Make America Great Again.”

When Belichick was asked about the letter, he said, “Our friendship goes back many years.”

After the Patriots humiliated the Falcons in Super Bowl LI, Belichick took his team to the White House and Kraft presented Trump with a Patriots No. 45 jersey and a championship ring with 283 diamonds. In 2018, Trump appointed Bill to serve on the President’s Council on Sports, Fitness and Nutrition. Last summer, Trump said, “If I ever had a military battle, I’d call up Belichick and say, ‘What do you think? Give me a couple of ideas.’ ”

Bill Belichick and Donald Trump at a White House event to honor the Patriots in 2017.
Bill Belichick and Donald Trump at a White House event to honor the Patriots in 2017.John Tlumacki

That was then. This is now. In January 2021, Belichick has rejected Trump’s invitation to accept the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian award. The coach stated, “Above all, I am an American citizen,” and he referenced 2020 conversations with his players about “social justice, equality and human rights.”

Belichick’s statement helps him keep his locker room, while distancing him from a president who in 2017 reacted to NFL players taking a knee with, “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, you’d say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out! He’s fired!’ ”

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Belichick’s decision was met with near-universal applause. Early Monday evening, I tweeted, “Belichick makes best call of his career,” which generated more than 3,000 “likes.” This never happens. I have more than 85,000 Twitter followers, most of whom hate me, and my “ratio” on tweets generally trends worse than Jackie Bradley Jr.’s career batting average.

Trump probably could have avoided this embarrassment if he’d paid closer attention. The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday that Belichick was offered the award prior to the attack on the Capitol. News of Belichick’s impending honor leaked Sunday, then was confirmed by the White House. Too bad nobody in Trump’s office got back to Belichick to see if the events of Jan. 6 perhaps changed his mind about going to Washington to accept the award.

It amounts to a huge embarrassment for Trump, the kind that hits him where it hurts.

And the best play call in Bill Belichick’s Hall of Fame career.


Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at daniel.shaughnessy@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @dan_shaughnessy.