In the waning weeks of the Trump administration, the nation’s attention was fixated on the “big picture,” thanks to the legacy media. In their minds, the key narratives to be propagated involved supporting congressional “certification” of Joe Biden, dissemination of puff pieces on potential Biden political appointees, and a tamping down on and ridiculing of any and all reports of election fraud in 2020. But there were other stories that seeped out from time to time, including President Trump’s efforts to award the Presidential Medal of Freedom (PMoF) to several retired athletes, including Annika Sorenstam and Bill Belichick. Therein lies the tale of – and perfect anecdote for – our highly politicized times.
The PMoF is awarded:
… to individuals who have made “an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.” Recipients of the award are selected by the president of the United States, with the assistance of the Distinguished Civilian Service Awards Board, an advisory group created in 1957. Although the majority of honorees are U.S. citizens, individuals from other countries are also eligible.
The PMoF is the highest award made to civilians in the United States. It is the civilian equivalent of the Congressional Medal of Honor, which is awarded to military members who have distinguished themselves by acts of valor. Past PMoF award recipients have included Billie Jean King, Sidney Poitier, Desmond Tutu, Barbara Streisand, Alan Page, Tiger Woods, Bob Cousy, and Dan Gable. For comparison purposes, President Obama made 118 awards during his eight years in office, while President Trump issued 24 medals during his 4-year term. Receiving this award is a significant personal achievement for each recipient; it is the experience of a lifetime, as all would doubtless attest.
Three people were scheduled to be awarded the PMoF in one of President Trump’s last official actions as POTUS on 7 January: golf legends and Hall-of-Famers Annika Sorenstam, Gary Player, and the late Babe Didrikson Zaharias. A fourth, multiple Superbowl-winning head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots was to receive his award on 14 January. However, the events on Capitol Hill on 6 January brought a flurry of media pressure on the recipients to forego receiving their awards as a “protest” against President Trump, whom the Democrat-media complex immediately accused (without evidence) of fomenting the riot and break-in. The Swedish-born Sorenstam and South African Player chose to receive their awards and were subsequently condemned for it. An op-ed in USA Today claimed that “their reputations are sullied, forever” for receiving their awards from President Trump.
Speaking of reputations, here is what Sorenstam accomplished in her stellar golf career: Sorenstam is one of the greatest golfers of all time. The Swedish legend recorded 90 international victories and 72 LPGA Tour tournament wins. She has the most wins among female golfers and tops the LPGA all-time in career earnings.
During her dominating career, Sorenstam won three ANA Inspiration tournaments, three Women’s PGA Championships, three U.S. Women’s Open titles, and one Women’s British Open. She was the 1994 LPGA Rookie of the Year and picked up the LPGA Player of the Year eight times.
Sorenstam eloquently defended her acceptance of the award (not that she needed to):
“I like to look forward, not spend energy on what could have been,” Sorenstam told Golf Channel when asked if she would act differently in hindsight. “It’s all about opening doors. That’s one thing I’ve learned. I’ve heard from a lot of people. You can imagine a lot of opinions, a lot of comments, and I hear clearly what those people say. I know they see it differently. But I listen, and I embrace them all.”
On 11 January, Belichik declined the honor of receiving the PMoF award from President Trump:
“Recently, I was offered the opportunity to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which I was flattered by out of respect for what the honor represents and admiration for prior recipients. Subsequently, the tragic events of last week occurred, and the decision has been made not to move forward with the award,” Belichick said in a statement obtained by NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport.
“Above all, I am an American citizen with great reverence for 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 in my professional career took place in 2020 when, through the great leadership within our team, conversations about social justice, equality, and human rights moved to the forefront and became actions. Continuing those efforts while remaining true to the people, team, and country I love outweigh the benefits of any individual award.”
One would think that politics would not enter into awarding the PMoF, but in the Age of Trump, of course, the legacy – and sports – media politicized every action taken by President Trump. These awards are not about the person awarding them, but rather are all about honoring the recipients for their personal achievements. Unfortunately, that sentiment is lost on the hyper-partisans of the Left in 2021.
Imagine a member of the Armed Forces who commits an act of extreme courage and personal sacrifice on the battlefield and gets nominated for the Congressional Medal of Honor. That member is then pressured and discouraged from accepting the Medal by others simply because they don’t like the people running Congress or the President who would bestow the award. That is precisely the analogy of the politicization of these PMoF awards!
Compare and contrast Sorenstam and Belichick. The foreign-born Sorenstam refused to inject politics into the equation and accepted her award with grace and courage in the face of media pressure to decline for political reasons. Belichick – the coach of a team, called the “Patriots,” no less – did not demonstrate the same moral courage as Sorenstam but rather declined the award for purely political reasons. He essentially “bent the knee” to the mob (some of whom undoubtedly occupy his own locker room).
This is the hyper-partisan world that the Democrats and other leftists have gifted us in 2021, in which everything is politicized for their benefit. It is just the tip of the iceberg.
Stu Cvrk served 30 years in the US Navy in a variety of active and reserve capacities, with considerable operational experience in the Middle East and the Western Pacific. An oceanographer and systems analyst through education and experience, Stu is a graduate of the US Naval Academy, where he received a classical liberal education. This functions as the key foundation for his political commentary. He threads daily on Twitter on a wide range of political topics, such as the military, foreign policy, government, economics, and world affairs.