Donald Trump will present one of the nation’s highest civilian honors to Bill Belichick, the head coach of the New England Patriots and the only coach to win six Super Bowl titles.
The presentation of the presidential medal of freedom is expected Thursday, a White House official confirmed on condition of anonymity.
Trump and Belichick have known each other for several years. Before Trump’s election victory in 2016, he read 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 scholarship and grant funds to help underprivileged youth participate in sports programs.
However, Trump has been widely criticized by many players in the NFL after he attacked players who knelt during the national anthem in protest at racial injustice.
In 2018, he disinvited the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles from a visit to the White House.
“They disagree with their President because he insists that they proudly stand for the National Anthem, hand on heart, in honor of the great men and women of our military and the people of our country,” Trump said in a statement at the time.
The Eagles had beaten the Patriots in that season’s Super Bowl.