President-elect Donald Trump read a letter to New Hampshire voters on Nov. 7, claiming that New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick had endorsed him. Belichick refused to answer questions about the letter in a press conference but later reported that the letter was non-political in nature.
The NFL head coach has a very specific mantra within his players’ locker room: “Do Your Job.” Not only are players expected to do their job on the football field, but they are expected to do it off the field as well. This even includes giving generic and uncontroversial answers to the media to avoid causing any team distractions. Players who have diverged from this model and who speak to the media often do not stay on the team for very long. This has been seen with many vocal players including Randy Moss and potentially Jamie Collins.
Yet, Bill Belichick apparently wrote a letter to Donald Trump prior to the election. Trump read parts of it which said, “You have dealt with an unbelievable and slanted media, and have come out beautifully. You’ve proved to be the ultimate competitor and fighter. Your leadership is amazing. I have always had tremendous respect for you, but the toughness and perseverance you have displayed over the past year is remarkable. Hopefully tomorrow’s election results will give the opportunity to make America great again.”
While Belichick may not have intended for the letter to have been read aloud, it is clear that he is not avoiding controversy in the way that he dictates his players do. To write a letter like that in the midst of one of the most heated and divisive elections of all-time is polarizing. While Belichick may be able to stop this from becoming a team distraction, it does set a bit of a double standard when it comes to how he is allowed to express himself and how his players are allowed to express themselves.
An annoyed Belichick initially refused to answer questions about the letter at a press conference on Nov. 9. Belichick evaded questions by simply stating the name of the city in which the Patriots were set to play: Seattle. He said it over and over, growing visibly more annoyed with each question. If Belichick does not want these kinds of non-football questions to be raised, he should not have brought this sort of controversy to the team. The incident ultimately may not be a huge issue within the locker room, as Belichick stated that the letter was purely one of friendship and not politically related.
Firstly, Belichick’s explanation seems suspicious due to the content of the letter, and secondly, he should not hypocritically partake in such polarizing acts if he is going to demand his players not to express themselves. He may in fact be the greatest NFL coach of all-time but that does not mean he is perfect, especially concerning the double standard that he has continued to create between himself and his players.