Now that the word is out that Patriots coach Bill Belichick is scheduled to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom on Thursday, the question is whether he’ll go through with it?
Per a source with knowledge of the dynamics, the offer was extended before last Wednesday’s events, and Belichick very much wants to accept it. He believes it’s a great honor.
The problem is that the circumstances undermine the honor and create needless controversy. The president bestowing the honor is more than a lame duck; he’s a wounded squirrel scurrying for any and all political nuts he can jam into a tree that currently is being loudly chainsawed.
Belichick, an unquestionable genius of a coach, risks creating a major problem for himself and for the Patriots by cozying up to a president who has gone in less than a week from being polarizing to pariah. Yes, he still has a group of ardent Fifth-Avenue-shootout supporters. But the pendulum has swung sharply against Donald Trump, and many will be upset with Belichick if he goes through with it.
Belichick doesn’t seem like the type who cares. Perhaps he should. With cap money to burn in 2021, the Patriots will be in position to pursue plenty of free agents. Will some of those free agents not want to play for him after Thursday?
Then there’s the question of whether Patriots fans will remain loyal to a man who may be on the front end of a multi-year absence from the playoffs. Whatever the grace period is for consecutive non-postseason appearances after six Super Bowl wins in 18 years, it becomes shorter if half (or more) of the fan base decides that they’re done with Belichick for participating in this week’s publicity stunt that seems more like a reward for loyalty than a fair and objective recognition of a lifetime of significant achievements.
This makes it an issue not only for Belichick but also for the Patriots. The team surely wishes that he wouldn’t do it. Surely, we’ll soon know with certainty whether he will.
If he does, it could mark the beginning of the end for Belichick in New England.