It should be beneath Bill Belichick to allow himself to be used as a prop. Yet, here we are.
Processing the fact that Donald Trump -- in the final embarrassing, divisive, violent days of his presidency -- is turning to Belichick to bail him out.
Coming from a normal American president, the Presidential Medal of Freedom would be a lifetime high point for anyone who loves this country, regardless of that president’s party or policies. There was an inherent dignity to the office.
But this -- if it actually goes off this Thursday with some kind of ceremony -- would be nothing but a bad-faith diversion by Trump. A tone-deaf effort to get video of him doing something presidential while Congress debates if he is worthy or fit to even serve out the final week of his presidency.
It’s a trap for Belichick and the medal itself is the bait. Trump knows Belichick -- raised in Annapolis and steeped in the lore of the Naval Academy -- must swoon at the chance to accept an honor begun by JFK. Kennedy’s presidency and assassination were seminal moments for Belichick. During the Cuban Missile Crisis, Belichick actually dressed up as JFK for Halloween.
But for Trump, this isn’t about honoring a great and accomplished American. It’s about creating a little circus with Trump as ringmaster and Belichick the compliant elephant standing on a tiny platform to amaze the crowd.
If Trump truly was a friend to Belichick and respected him, he’d just FedEx it with a certificate attached. “Would have loved to do this in person but the heat’s too hot, Bill. No sense giving the media jackals a chance to tear into you for being too close to me. Sad.”
But he’s an angle guy. Like they all are. And Trump will happily invoke the name “Patriots” and twist Belichick’s presence and that team name as a tribute to the individuals who last week brought death, dishonor and imagery that won’t fade for hundreds of years.
Is that what Bill’s looking for? Is that what’s “best for the football team?” Because while Belichick’s still coaching the New England Patriots, he represents the team, ownership, his players and the fanbase.
This isn’t separate from football. It’s because of it.
If Belichick were just John Q. Public, former accomplished football coach who contributed to society with his charitable foundation while being a role model for work ethic, discipline and ingenuity, then have at it.
But right now? This week? Trump isn’t just dragging Belichick down to Washington for a sham event. In summoning Belichick, he’s inviting by proxy hundreds of players -- former and current -- who helped Belichick win all those games. Belichick will accept on behalf of Devin and Jason McCourty, Benjamin Watson, Duron Harmon, Matt Slater, Troy Brown, Jerod Mayo and so many others. Does he really want to do that?
Does he really want to announce to the NFL and its workforce that Trump -- a radioactive individual who undercut the American electoral process and whipped up a group bent on sedition -- is a person Belichick wants to align himself with?
Players are more attuned than ever to the social justice leanings of the people they work for. Some call that “politics.” I don’t. The core values of how we treat and speak to each other, how opportunities are given, how our society educates, how it enforces its laws, that’s not politics.
Those are matters of humanity, respect and decency. Neither of our major political parties has a hammerlock on any of those three things. It’s bad right now, as you know.
To show up a week later and be party to any presidential ceremony with someone who undermined his country as Trump has? That’s unpatriotic.