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Image: A U.S. Marine military aide holds the Presidential Medal of Freedom for Trump to award to Holtz in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington
A U.S. Marine military aide holds the Presidential Medal of Freedom for U.S. President Donald Trump to award to retired football coach Lou Holtz in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, U.S., December 3, 2020.Jonathan Ernst / Reuters

Trump offers Medal of Freedom to NFL coach, who declines honor

This is, as best as I can tell, the first time anyone has ever turned down the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

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For much of the last four years, Donald Trump has tarnished the Presidential Medal of Freedom -- the United States' highest civilian honor -- turning it into a party favor for his political allies. With this in mind, it didn't come as too big of a surprise when the White House announced that New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick, a Trump friend who supported the Republican's candidacy in 2016, would be the latest recipient.

Late yesterday, however, the football coach declined the honor.

In a statement, Belichick said he was flattered to be offered the medal, the country's highest civilian honor, but he said the "tragic events of last week occurred and the decision has been made not to move forward with the award." Belichick, who has coached the Patriots for 21 years and has won six Super Bowls, said that "above all, I am an American citizen with great reverence for our nation's values, freedom and democracy."

The coach added that "remaining true to the people, team and country I love outweigh the benefits of any individual award."

This is, as best as I can tell, the first time anyone has ever turned down the Presidential Medal of Freedom*. It's also a safe bet that Donald Trump was not pleased with the response.

Of course, others don't mind being associated with the Republican.

President Donald Trump announced Monday that he was awarding the presidential medal of freedom to Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, a pugnacious Republican ally in Congress who continues to back the president even after the deadly rampage last week by a pro-Trump mob through the Capitol.

The right-wing congressman has faced difficult questions in recent years, as part of a controversy involving a former Ohio State University physician who allegedly sexually abused 177 students. Jordan, a former coach at the school, was accused of turning a blind eye to the abuses, allegations the Republican has denied.

* Correction: My preliminary research was incorrect, and there is some precedent for people declining the honor. The earlier circumstances were, however, quite different.