Donald Trump has always viewed sport as a central element of his authoritarian political project. His attacks on Colin Kaepernick and LeBron James, his call for players to be sacked for protesting police violence, and his boasting that he “saved” college football from those affected, that the sport would lead to the super-spread of the coronavirus (the did he) are examples of the way he has used our games as his own toxic platform.
Trump has also been delighted to see the sycophancy of athletes, coaches and franchisees ready to kneel in front of him and bow promise their loyalty. Still, there is no category of athletes more appealing to Trump than those who reflect his own toxic masculinity. He has absolutely no regard for women’s sports. He loves the Ultimate Fighting Championship and its fake macho president, Dana White. He is happy to hear that golfers like Tiger Woods or Jack Nicklaus show him affection. Trump is not a sports lover. He is a lover of a harmful alpha male goulash, which is the worst sport.
Nobody exemplifies this like Bill Belichick. The New England Patriots coach, with the Super Bowl six rings, behavior that is harshly redefined, and a belief that his own workers should have “no days off,” is all Trump loves: a winner who makes him back loves. In 2016, the night before the election, Trump read a letter from Belichick that was inundated with his praise. It enclosed the lines“You’ve dealt with incredibly weird and negative media and it came out beautifully – beautifully. You have proven yourself to be the ultimate competitor and fighter. Your guidance is amazing. I have always had great respect for you, but the tenacity and perseverance you have shown over the past year is remarkable. Hopefully tomorrow’s election results will provide an opportunity to make America great again. “
For this reason, after the fascist uprising on Capitol Hill, it was no surprise when it was announced that Trump would award Bill Belichick the Presidential Medal of Freedom later this week. And so it was an even bigger surprise when Belichick refused. Here is the sometimes tortured, sometimes sincere statement Belichick published: Announcement of his rejection::
I was recently offered the opportunity to receive the President’s Medal of Freedom, flattered out of respect for what honor represents and out of admiration for past recipients. As a result, the tragic events of the past week occurred and it was decided not to continue the award. Most of all, I am an American citizen with a great awe of our nation’s values, freedom, and democracy. I know I also represent my family and the New England Patriots team. One of the most rewarding things of my professional career happened in 2020 when the great leadership on our team brought conversations about social justice, equality and human rights to the fore and turned into action. If I continue these efforts while remaining true to the people, the team and the country, I will outweigh the benefits of each individual award.
Before anyone gives Belichick a biscuit, we should realize that if they had accepted this award, it would have been a scar on his reputation. an indelible mark that no number of Super Bowl rings could have hidden. To be used as a prop by this president while Capitol Hill police officers were still planning their funerals would not be pale even for Belichick. Furthermore, it is difficult to imagine that a “social justice” initiative taken by the patriots will ever be taken seriously by anyone again.
Then there is the problem of the patriot players themselves. Belichick depends on his mystique as the “leader of the people”. If players don’t want to come to New England, Belichick’s plan to rebuild and prove he can win without former quarterback Tom Brady falls by the wayside. And imagine if current gamers used social media to express their disgust or contempt. Its mysticism would quickly become a derogatory asset.
Make no mistake, Belichick did the right thing. Whether or not he did it for the wrong reasons is something to ponder, especially as Trump’s allies are beginning to disembark from his sinking, rat-infested ship. Trump’s presidency is coming to an end. His exploitation of the sport was now fatally wounded as well, and by someone he suspected would never swing the blade.