Barring the most hardcore of New England Patriots supporters, most NFL fans will recognize that for as much winning as head coach Bill Belichick does, there’s plenty to criticize him about.
Whether it’s his win-at-all-costs mentality, his penchant for bending the rules (when he’s not being accused of outright breaking them) or his propensity for rolling the dice on players of stunningly questionable character, Belichick deserves varying degrees of criticism.
But to attack him for not wading into the cultural minefield that is America right now?
That might be a bit of stretch.
Yet NBC Sports’ Mike Florio penned an article Friday going after the New England Patriots coach for just that. In the piece, titled “Bill Belichick’s silence becomes conspicuous,” he tried to present Belichick with an ultimatum.
“In this historic moment, there is no middle ground. The choices are to support the notion of equality, liberty, and justice for all, or not to,” Florio wrote. “For NFL coaches, they either support the men in their locker room who are simply trying to get the things that America claims to freely provide to all people, or they don’t.”
To be clear, not once has Belichick ever explicitly stated that he’s in any way opposed to notions of equality, liberty and justice for all.
But it is 2020, and apparently “You’re either with us or against us” ultimatums are the new, trendy thing in social discourse.
“At a time when more and more coaches are speaking out in compelling fashion (including a pair of former Belichick lieutenants, Brian Flores and Bill O’Brien), Belichick remains quiet,” Florio wrote.
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Interestingly, Florio didn’t mention Denver Broncos head coach Vic Fangio, who was taken to task and apologized after he said that he doesn’t “see racism” in the NFL. Perhaps Belichick wanted to avoid a similar outcome.
Another point of contention that Florio mentioned was Belichick’s friendship with President Donald Trump. The subtext of that critique is quite clear given that Florio actually refused to refer to Trump, except when quoting someone else, by name throughout his lengthy screed.
It’s worth pointing out that being friends with someone doesn’t necessarily mean you support every last thing they’ve said or believe.
NBC Sports Boston’s Tim Curran expressed similar concerns as Florio in a piece titled, “It’s fair to wonder where Bill Belichick stands on Donald Trump right now.”
“Absent any kind of statement otherwise, it’s inevitable to wonder whether Belichick’s support of a president who — since 2016 — has found myriad ways to undercut, minimize, demonize and insult NFL players fighting for social justice remains as strong,” Curran wrote.
Belichick’s non-football, non-political friendship with Trump appears to strike a particular chord with NBC Sports.
“In this climate, silence sends a message perhaps even more powerful than speaking up. Especially when, in this case, Belichick supported a candidate who, most recently, used tear gas and rubber bullets to clear a crowd of peaceful protestors in advance of a photo op at a church near the White House,” Florio wrote.
“At this specific moment in history, and given Belichick’s public support for the candidate, silence amounts to ratification. And ratification of that behavior is antithetical to everything that (Patriots cornerback Stephon) Gilmore and other NFL players are trying to accomplish.”
Florio also proceeded to assume that NFL fans, many of whom probably don’t want politics in their sports, would be “pleasantly” surprised if Belichick spoke out about social justice issues.
“Belichick could surprise all of us — pleasantly — by putting pen to paper or vocal cords to microphone and saying the things that Gilmore and the other players want to hear: ‘I condemn racism and the systemic oppression of black people. I admit wrong in silencing our players from peacefully protesting. I believe black lives matter,’” he wrote.
Florio and Curran both seem to be under the assumption that every last NFL fan wants issues like criminal justice reform and the Black Lives Matter movement to be part of their football experience.
And maybe they’re right. But even if that were so, it hardly seems fair to equate Belichick being mum on complicated societal issues with him being a flagrant racist.
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